Capability Building Programs

We help address the systemic social and environmental challenges of the apparel industry through collaboration with our suppliers to build their capabilities, incorporating industry-wide efforts to elevate best practices and improve efficiency, and connecting with local and international NGOs and industrial partners to innovate programs that benefit workers and their communities. 

We take a holistic approach to working with factories and our partners, aiming to catalyze improvements in workers’ grievance mechanisms, gender equity in leadership, safety and well-being, and more. In all our capability-building programs, we place a special emphasis on women’s empowerment.  We also invest in programs to enrich communities through responsible environmental management. 

Goals

Progress

By 2025

100% of workers employed in our strategic factories* will have their voices heard through representative, gender-equitable workplace committees

2021

Corresponds with our Workplace Cooperation Program (WCP)

• Since 2017: 3,361 grievances raised and 97% resolved within the same quarter

• 2021 Active Participants: 197 facilities in 9 countries

• Since 2016: 241 facilities implementing WCP (target: 200)

By 2025 

100% of our strategic factories* will have achieved gender parity at the supervisor level

2021

Corresponds with our Supervisory Skills Training (SST) Program

• Cumulative Impact: 7,100 supervisors trained

• 2021 Active Participants: 182 facilities in 9 countries

• Total: 228 facilities implementing SST (target: 220)

By 2025 

100% of our factories will have prevention and response management systems and trainings in place to address gender-based violence

2021

Corresponds with our Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Prevention and Response Program

• 90% of our factories had completed gender awareness training for middle and top management

• 44% of our factories have started training on GBV Prevention and Response, reaching over 231,500 workers

*Strategic factories represent 80% of our business spend

Our Approach 

We partner with the facilities where our products are made to help them become preferred employers in the communities where they operate. This supports workers and benefits business by driving higher retention and improved productivity.  

To cultivate long-term, close relationships that allow us to create greater change together, we work with strategic suppliers with whom we develop shared sustainability goals. Since 2016, we have disclosed our factory list, which we update twice a year and can be found in our ESG Resources.  

We have a three-pronged approach to capability-building: 

1. Supplier engagement: We train our Tier 1 suppliers on social and environmental issues and our COVC on an ongoing basis and use our Mill Sustainability Program to measure the performance of our Tier 2 mills. We also engage many suppliers through industry-leading programs such as P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement Career Enhancement) as well as Gap Inc.-led capability-building and resource efficiency programs. To help our suppliers make strategic investments in their employees and business operations, we have increased their access to data and analysis from our Assessment and Remediation process.  

2. Industry collaboration: As a signatory to the Social and Labor Convergency Program (SLCP), we encourage the wider adoption of the SLCP tool, which helps assess the social and labor performance of manufacturing facilities while reducing the duplication of industry efforts by sharing resources and supporting continuous improvement.  

As a founding member of the ILO Better Work program, we helped establish the Better Work Academy, which moves beyond an “assessment-only” approach to facility monitoring by helping empower facilities to make improvements themselves, with brands serving as advisers and partners. Together with Better Work, we also developed our Workplace Cooperation Program (WCP), Supervisory Skills Training (SST), and Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response programs (see below).  

We also engage in several industry collaborations to support our goals to enrich communities through water stewardship, climate action, chemicals management, sustainable raw materials, circularity and waste-reduction. 

3. Innovation: Our Workforce Engagement Program (WEP) mobile tools support all of our capability-building programs. The mobile technology allows our suppliers to deliver important information and training, and it also provides a platform for workers to raise grievances and share their feedback with facilities. 

Workplace Cooperation Program (WCP) 

Our Workplace Cooperation Program (WCP) facilitates dialogue between workers and management to address workplace issues. This training program works with elected bipartite committees comprising workers and management representatives who collaborate to build good industrial relations. The program includes guidance on how to respect and abide by workers’ fundamental rights at work, as outlined in the ILO’s Core Conventions.  

Our analysis of WCP data shows that once functioning bipartite committees are in place, workers feel more empowered to raise concerns, and that these concerns are more quickly addressed. A 2019 evaluation of the program by York University and Better Work underscored our findings. 

To evaluate whether these changes are supporting our suppliers’ business performance, we created a quarterly data-collection tool for facilities to measure business indicators such as absenteeism, number of grievances and productivity.  

As part of our commitment to women’s empowerment, we set a goal to ensure workplace committees at our strategic factories are truly representative of the broader workforce. We will measure performance by: (1) the percent of strategic factories where workplace committees have gender-equitable representation and (2) the percent of strategic factories where workplace committees are meeting at least 70% of relevant Better Work Academy’s Social Dialogue Indicators (SDIs) and meet minimum requirement indicators (SDI 9, SDI 17 and SDI 18).

Supervisory Skills Training 

Launched in 2018, our three-day Supervisory Skills Training (SST) program aims to help facility supervisors improve communication with workers, who typically contact middle management first to discuss problems or make suggestions to improve facility working conditions. The program covers areas like being a professional supervisor, building good relationships, and managing workers.  

It also supports women’s leadership: As part of our goal for strategic factories to achieve gender parity at the supervisor level by 2025, we ask facilities to prioritize women for SST training opportunities. We measure performance by assessing the percentage of factories with gender-equitable representation at the supervisor level, and the percent of supervisors in our strategic factories that are women, globally.  

To measure the program’s overall impact, we use production-efficiency data and supervisor and worker surveys. This helps us understand the effectiveness of trainings on changing behavior and improving production efficiency. We recognize this is just the first step; women need access to technical skills training and a workplace culture that supports their advancement. We continue to look at ways to help our facilities empower women with the opportunity to use their confidence, agency and skills to take on supervisory roles. 

Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response 

Over the years, our regular facility assessments have revealed violations related to gender-based discrimination and harassment, which is why we developed our Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Prevention and Response program to help enforce our zero-tolerance policy on physical, psychological and sexual harassment.  

A key part of our women’s empowerment strategy, this program helps ensure our facilities do three things: raise awareness of gender-based violence, why it happens and what can be done about it; invest in preventing and addressing the issue in the workplace; and use our prevention and response spectrum to identify, address and remediate issues immediately.  

We also work with factories to review and improve their GBV policies, support government policies that address this issue—including India’s Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) law and similar legislation in Vietnam and Indonesia, and tailor our training programs to align with such legislation.  

In 2021, we set our goal to ensure all of our factories have GBV training, prevention and response systems in place by 2025. We measure performance by assessing the percentage of factories where 100 percent of workers have received annual training on gender-based violence prevention and response and by the percent of sourcing factories that have a functioning grievance mechanism for encouraging employee complaints and suggestions regarding GBV. 

Digital Wage Payments

Digital wage payment systems—including mobile wallets, bank accounts, debit cards and other digitally accessible methods—improve supply chain transparency and efficiency and support financial inclusion, giving workers, particularly women, greater control over their finances through safe options to save, spend and invest their money. Additional benefits include reducing time spent on payroll and supporting more transparency in worker payments, including overtime, which has helped workers get paid what they earned.

Since starting our Digital Wage Payments program in 2017, we have been working closely with partners and participating in the UN’s Better than Cash Alliance (BtCA) to address ongoing regulatory and infrastructure constraints on digital wage payments. We continue to prioritize digital wage payments with new Tier 1 suppliers and support financial inclusion more broadly by offering digital financial literacy sessions in our P.A.C.E. curriculum.  

We have increased the share of our Tier 1 suppliers that offer digital wage payment systems from 68 to 96 percent from 2017 to 2021.

While we are seeing good progress in most of our sourcing countries, we are encountering barriers to progress in countries that lack banking infrastructure. We recognize that we cannot solve all challenges alone, and we are partnering with a broad set of stakeholders in countries that lack the infrastructure or capital investment required to make digital wages a scalable, cost-effective model for garment workers.