Selecting sustainable fibers
We believe great products are created with sustainability at their core — which means using more sustainable raw materials to make our clothes. We give our brands license to improve the sustainability of their products by selecting the best raw materials that meet the performance of their products, while also meeting our standards for social and environmental sustainability. We are constantly refining and innovating our strategy and engage in industry partnerships that focus on preferred raw materials and circular approach to materials use and end of life.
We use many types of fibers in Gap Inc. products: natural fibers, including plant-based items such as cotton and linen, and animal-based materials such as wool, leather and cashmere; synthetic fibers, including polyester and spandex; and manufactured cellulosic fibers, including pulp-based materials such as rayon and modal. Each type of fiber has a social and environmental impact, and we are empowering our designers with the knowledge needed to make informed choices within the design process.
Today, we focus our raw materials strategy on the top fibers that account for approximately 97 percent of our fiber consumption: cotton, polyester, nylon and manufactured cellulosic fibers. Historically, fiber traceability has been a challenge, as fabric sourcing is done separately from supplier selection, so we have improved our internal reporting and fabric-management systems to provide detailed data on our fiber consumption and volumes. We also increase our team’s awareness through training programs and shared tools, and we provide sustainable-fiber consumption reports to internal decision-makers on a regular basis to highlight progress and continue to drive improvements.
Cotton is essential to our business. As one of the world’s leading apparel brands, we use a significant amount of the global cotton supply. Cotton cultivation requires large amounts of land, human labor, machinery, pest- and weed control measures, and it is also water-intensive. Cotton is also an important crop for the economy, supporting the livelihoods of 250 million people, many of whom are women.
We focus our cotton strategy around building fiber security and maintaining a comprehensive evaluation of cotton-sourcing risks, as well as building a more sustainable source of cotton that is better for people and the planet.
Cotton supply chains are often opaque, complex, and can involve traders and agents that facilitate the exchange of cotton and yarn between the different stages of production. We regularly explore new solutions that will give us meaningful insights into the origins of the raw materials in our products and how those who harvest them are impacted. We understand that there are human rights risks in our raw materials supply chain and are diligently working to manage these risks. To respect the rights of people throughout our raw materials supply chain, we conduct high-level risk assessments to identify where countries that we may source from have weaker protections for labor rights or increased risk of forced labor and human trafficking. These assessments rely on tools such as Verité's Forced Labor Commodity Atlas and the U.S. Department of State's Findings on the Worst Forms of Forced and Child Labor and Trafficking in Persons Report, as well as consultations with expert stakeholders.
As a result of this work, our current policies prohibit suppliers from using cotton originating from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Xinjiang in our products. We recognize that these risk assessments also require supporting enforcement processes, which can include country of origin declarations from suppliers, the utilization of fiber-tracing technologies, and the collection of various documents that provide visibility into the flow of cotton and other materials that may enter our supply chain. We are utilizing several technologies and partnerships to help us evolve and mature our approach to enforcing our standards on cotton.
We also endeavor to use more sustainable cotton across all of our brands. As we continue to evolve our sourcing practices, we are also deepening our understanding of the environmental risks in regions from which we source, Gap brand, Banana Republic and Old Navy have each committed to use 100 percent sustainable cotton and Gap Inc has a goal to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025. This includes organic, recycled and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) cotton.
As we continue to evolve our sourcing practices, we are also deepening our understanding of the regions from which we source, with a focus on risks in water-sensitive areas and other impacts arising from climate change. Because cotton is mostly grown in areas of high water stress, such as India, China and Pakistan, we have built a comprehensive evaluation of cotton-sourcing risks.
In 2020, we further advanced our efforts to use more sustainable cotton by becoming a signatory of the US Cotton Trust Protocol to start receiving verified data on the sustainability attributes of US grown cotton.
We commit to support the development of SBTs on biodiversity and the implementation of these targets within our industry to assure our contribution to the protection and restoration of ecosystems and the protection of key species. Specifically, we commit to develop a Gap Inc. biodiversity strategy to meet forthcoming SBTs on biodiversity.
We also use synthetic materials in our products, including polyester, spandex and nylon, which provide essential performance properties. However, synthetics are often derived from nonrenewable, petroleum-based sources. They also have fewer end-of-life solutions than natural fibers because they may never biodegrade.
To address these challenges, we’re taking steps to source more sustainable synthetic fibers, including recycled polyester and recycled nylon. We have been increasing our use of recycled polyester and nylon where possible, while also working to understand how to reduce manufacturing challenges and develop high-performance products with these materials. We are also an active member of the Textile Exchange Recycled Polyester and Biosynthetics Working Groups, investigating industry innovations toward more sustainable fibers. In addition, we have embarked on a collaboration with the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) that aims to innovate a process to separate spandex from other fibers in used garments to increase its recycling opportunities
As a brand that uses large amounts of synthetics in its active wear, Athleta is taking a leading stance on addressing this issue with its goal of having 80 percent of materials made with sustainable fibers by 2020. Athleta incorporates recycled polyester and nylon into sourcing, which helps offset the impacts and waste streams of virgin materials and preserves our nonrenewable resources. Banana Republic has also set a goal to make 50 percent of its products with sustainable fibers (including cotton through BCI, as well as recycled and organic sources) by 2023.
Manufactured Cellulosic Fibers
We are committed to help protect critical forests and tackle climate change, as forest ecosystems are vital natural resources that promote biodiversity, protect watersheds and help mitigate the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Our Wood-Derived Fabric Policy — which we developed in partnership with Canopy’s sustainable fashion and forestry initiative, CanopyStyle — aims to ensure that our suppliers do not use ancient, endangered, high-conservation or high-carbon value forest areas to make cellulose-based textiles, including rayon, modal, viscose and lyocell.
We are working closely with our top suppliers to support our companywide policy to eliminate our use of wood-derived fibers from ancient and endangered forests by 2020.
To achieve our commitment, we are partnering with mills on the following: identifying our raw-material suppliers in order to eliminate sourcing of wood-derived fibers from ancient and endangered forests, leveraging CanopyStyle’s audit and remediation plan and encouraging the development of innovative, more sustainable fabrics. In partnership with our major suppliers, we are also exploring ways to integrate recycled cellulosics into our products.
In 2019, we gathered data on our supply chain representing more than 80% of our cellulosic-fiber volume through a detailed survey and follow-up conversations with suppliers. Through this data, we show that 86% of our cellulosic volume is compliant with our commitment. We still have work to do to engage additional suppliers to take the Canopy audit, and encourage some engaged suppliers commit to a remediation plan.
Reducing impacts at every stage.
Great product designed with sustainability in mind.
The time to act is now - for all of us.
Improving environmental practices and benefiting communities.