Engaging Stakeholders

Working together for greater change.

 

Large crowd at an event

An integral part of how we live up to our Inclusive, by Design mission is through collaboration, which informs our approach to stakeholder engagement. Advancing progress on issues such as water access, climate change, women’s empowerment, and safe and fair working conditions demands collaboration and jointly developed solutions. These issues are systemic, complex and intertwined and cannot be solved by any one organization alone.

Engaging stakeholders and establishing partnerships is a critical part of our sustainability strategy.

Our Key Stakeholders

We regularly partner—both formally and informally—with a broad set of stakeholders to help us ensure we are maximizing the potential of our impact. Having operated a variety of factory-focused programs in the 25 years since our Global Sustainability department was established, we have established a comprehensive network of stakeholders that we rely on for insight, guidance, and accountability.

Key constituencies we regularly partner with include:

  • Local NGOs and trade unions in the countries from which we source, with whom our Supplier Sustainability team regularly checks in with, particularly when we identify complex labor-related issues in a particular factory
  • Suppliers themselves, who are ultimately the employers of the garment workers in our supply chain, and without whom we cannot achieve our ambitious sustainability goals
  • International NGOs and trade unions, who help us evolve and improve our policies and practices related to labor and human rights
  • Multi-lateral institutions, development agencies and governments, whose policies and investments can have a material impact on working conditions within our supply chain  
  • Industry initiatives which convene apparel and footwear brands to scale and amplify collective efforts related to reducing environmental impacts.

Each of these stakeholders have their own area of expertise and focus. These engagements often bring together organizations and individuals with divergent viewpoints, and we always seek to understand those that are different from our own, even if they are highly critical. Even the most critical viewpoints can sometimes help us evolve our approach, both as a matter of policy, and as we seek to resolve urgent human rights issues in our supply chain.

To see a list of organizations and initiatives that we belong to or partner with, click here.

THE SHORT STORY 
STAKEHOLDERS 

  • The scale of issues such as climate change, women’s empowerment and worker safety demands that we join with others to forge solutions.
  • A range of perspectives enables us to conceive initiatives that help bring about long-term, sustainable, and large-scale change.
  • Our latest collaborations take an innovative approach to changes facing our industry and the world.

To create the change we’re after, we can’t do this work alone. We partner with organizations large and small to make this work happen. The United Nations is one of them. For years, we’ve supported the UN Global Compact and its guiding principles.

How Partnerships Ignite Innovation and Impact for Water and Women

Deep stakeholder engagement is an important part of our strategy to uphold our labor and human rights commitments and support our environmental goals. Partnerships also open opportunities for industry innovation and larger-scale impact. Some of our recent partnerships are supporting progress on water stewardship (read about our long-time sourcing and franchise partner Arvind Limited) and women’s empowerment (read about our partnerships with Empower@Work).

Human Rights Engagement in Our Supply Chain

One area where stakeholder engagement has supported progress is improving labor standards in our supply chain. Our approach to working with stakeholders is informed both by a proactive engagement strategy, and by a reactive ethos of us believing it is important to respond to any inquiry that is of relevance to conduct within our supply chain and our operations.  

We time our engagement with stakeholders based on their connection to our business, our ability to impact them and the salience of the issue being addressed. For instance, we engage our employees multiple times throughout the year to collect their feedback through surveys distributed through our Human Resources team.

With our suppliers and their employees, we communicate our policies and commitments to our stakeholders, including our Human Rights Policy and grievance channels, through a multitude of touchpoints: providing access to a Gap Inc. online platform that contains all relevant information on our human rights policies and practices; through consultative in-person and virtual visits; and by interviewing and engaging workers through our portfolio of programs that seek to respect workers’ rights and empower women. We ensure these policies and channels are accessible by offering them in local languages and providing in-person and virtual support wherever needed.

We also engage with workers in our Tier 1 supply chain as a matter of routine practice—through our assessments, where we conduct formal interviews with workers, and through the informal relationships that our teams have created with worker representatives. We also leverage worker-centric technologies in a number of markets, which allow us to receive constant feedback and insights from the people who work in our supply chain. These regular check-ins allow us to learn about specific human rights issues or stakeholder needs to proactively mitigate any risks.

Together with our Supplier Sustainability team, our Global Partnerships team is responsible for managing and implementing our human rights and labor stakeholder engagement strategy. The Global Partnerships team is in regular dialogue with expert labor and human rights organizations globally. At the local level, through engaging with community-based organizations, NGOs, and trade unions, our Supplier Sustainability team is able to gather helpful insight into factories’ employment practices and working conditions, which can help augment the findings we gather through the assessments, trainings, and surveys that we conduct at our suppliers’ facilities around the world. These networks and the issues they surface are one of the primary inputs into how we evolve and improve our programs focused on catalyzing improvements in labor standards and working conditions.  

When issues arise, we seek to work with suppliers, unions, worker-representative organizations, and local and international NGOs that have expertise and connections in the that area. Our aim is to prioritize the impact of affected parties and come to a resolution that is fair and ethical given the events that transpired. We take what we learn from these experiences to improve our processes and protocols in responding to future issues, and we seek to partner with other buyers, governments, and other stakeholders in so that these lessons can be applied more broadly.

We also collaborate on solutions that matter most to workers and our suppliers' facilities. For example, with the ILO's Better Work program, we have developed Gap Inc.’s Workplace Cooperation Program, which gives workers and management the skills they need to resolve workplace issues, engage in respectful collaboration and drive continuous improvement in the workplace. Through other partnerships, we developed our Workforce Engagement Program to measure and improve the degree to which garment workers feel valued and engaged at work.

The Power of Partnership

With over two decades of experience in engaging stakeholders, we know there is no single formula for the frequency or mode of engagement that we pursue. We balance regularly scheduled meetings and calls—to systematically capture and respond to stakeholder feedback—with dialogue and engagement in the moment as issues arise. Importantly, we have developed the relationships and connections necessary to bring a broader, multi-stakeholder perspective to these issues.

For a complete list of our initiatives and partner organizations, click here. We have partnered with each of these groups because they provide expert insights, capabilities or interventions that are complementary to our own, and because we share a common objective in respecting workers, empowering women and building a more resilient supply chain. While this list is comprehensive, it is not exhaustive of many of the groups we work with informally, including labor rights advocates, local community organizations and trade unions.

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