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Taking Action For Bangladesh Garment Workers

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic building collapse at the Rana Plaza industrial complex in Bangladesh. Our hearts go out to the families and communities impacted by the tragic event.   

I recently traveled to Bangladesh, and returned home even more committed to our efforts to improve factory safety and support lasting, positive change for workers there. Bangladesh is a vital part of our company’s supply chain – and the supply chain of many other retailers. However, despite the industry boom, problems remain.  Rapid growth and urbanization coupled with weak enforcement of building codes and labor laws have contributed to a series of high-profile factory incidents over the last few years. Gap Inc. never worked with Rana Plaza, but the tragedy was a wake-up call for our entire industry.

Since the disaster, progress has been made. In July 2013, Gap Inc. and other retailers formed the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. The Alliance recently announced completion of fire safety, structural and electrical inspections in more than half of the factories where members’ clothing is produced. And with over 400,000 factory managers and workers trained on fire and building safety issues, the Alliance is on target to meet its goal of training more than one million garment workers by this July. As a result of these inspections, factory owners are beginning the necessary structural and fire safety improvements to make their factories safer for their workers.  And thanks to new fire doors, sprinklers and smoke detection systems, thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh are benefitting from a safer work environment.

I have been asked why Gap Inc. simply doesn’t send manufacturing orders elsewhere. There are several factors that determine where our products are manufactured, and responsible sourcing is one of them.  Bangladesh has become a key global sourcing market, second only to China in garment exports. Despite its challenges, the garment industry has played a key role in improving workers’ lives in Bangladesh and advancing the country’s economic development.  More than four million people in Bangladesh depend on garment industry jobs supported by business from global retailers. We believe it is important to stay and be part of driving sustainable change.

Long-term solutions will take time.  Gap Inc. joins many others working to help ensure that safe workplaces in Bangladesh become the rule, not the exception, for those employed in the Bangladesh garment industry.  

Michelle Banks is Gap Inc.’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. Michelle played a central role in the creation of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. She also supported the creation of Gap Inc.’s first Human Rights Policy in 2010, and established the Company’s Governance and Global Integrity functions.


How our Gap guy almost won Project Runway: Under the Gunn

We first wrote about Sam Donovan back in February, around the time Project Runway: Under the Gunn aired on Lifetime.

Here’s what we knew then: That at 23, he would be the season’s youngest designer; that he worked (and still works!) at a Gap store in Natick, Mass., and that he’s incredibly talented.

We didn’t know he would almost win.

A clear favorite (his fans broke Twitter, people!), Sam beat out 13 other contestants to come in second. After the show ended April 10, we caught up with him, and here’s what he had to say about the show, his beautiful clothes, and why he still loves working for Gap.

Tanya Hart: So many people picked you to win. What has the reaction been like?

Sam Donovan: I love that I can talk about the finale, because now everyone’s seen it! Finally I can talk about the fact that I came in second, and it was super awesome. The best responses have been from those who say it doesn’t matter that I didn’t win, because they loved my work.

TH: And you’re still working at your Gap store?

SD: I’m still at the store, and people do come in sometimes and say, “Are you Sam?” I love it.

TH: Would you say that Gap has influenced your designs in any way?

SD: Absolutely. Gap has that kind of aspirational clothing, but it’s not at a crazy price. I’ve always felt that clothing shouldn’t be exclusive. I began by wanting to create something beautiful and affordable for a lot of body types. People say to me, “I’m not a size 2, but I can see myself wearing your clothes,” and that is what I want to hear as a designer.

I think in the end, the judges were a little annoyed with me because they wanted me to be a bit more high-fashion, but then it’s like, why am I designing? So I can be on TV? That’s not me.

TH: You wore an awful lot of denim on the show. Gap?

SD: The denim, the sweatshirts, most of the clothes I wore — 80 percent of it was Gap. People were asking me about a sweatshirt I wore — it was part of the GQ collaboration, and is sold out now, but I got a lot of questions about it.

TH: There was a huge moment on the show were you talked about being bullied as a kid, and you were very emotional. What has the response been like?

SD: Oh, I can’t even put it into words — so many people have reached out to me. Even the other day at Starbucks, a barista started telling me about something that had happened to her. There’s this aspect of reluctance to talk about such things, and I think that’s where a lot of the damage comes from — but why not just put it out there? I didn’t expect to cry on stage in front of the judges; it just happened. In the end, it’s been a blessing. I’ve gotten to know people — even in the fitting rooms at the store — who have told me their own stories and by the time we’re done talking, it’s like we’re old friends.

And then you have Gap, a company that talks about these things. It’s such an all-American company, at the head of all these progressive efforts, and I’ve always thought that is so great. It’s part of a national conversation.

TH: What’s next for you?

SD: Well, I am looking to work as a designer in San Francisco — that’s my goal. I would love to live there. I’m working on it, so we’ll see. I’ve grown so much from the show, and I hope to continue friendships with (fellow contestant) Asha and (mentor) Mondo.

I never really thought I could win the show, and maybe once I was up there at the end, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I might win,’ for like two seconds. But most of the time, my energy was on creating something beautiful.

Follow #DesigerSam on Twitter and Instagram.


Sam and his mentor, Mondo Guerra



Clean water for all 

Around the world, women and girls spend 200 million hours collecting water each day.  That’s enough time to build 28 Empire State Buildings.  Every day. 

The roughly 1 billion people living in slums around the world often pay 5-10 times more for water than those in the U.S. and other advanced economies.  And did you know that 3.5 million people die each year from water-related illness?  That’s more than four times the population of San Francisco.

From drought-stricken California to the developing countries where our clothes are made, water is absolutely critical to our daily lives and livelihoods.  That’s why Gap Inc. is doing more to help address some of these challenges.

Everyone deserves access to clean and safe water. So we are working to help ensure the women who work in the factories that make our clothes have the support they need to access healthy water sources. To achieve this goal, we plan to build on the foundation of the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. program, which teaches women factory workers life and work skills, and has already helped more than 25,000 women across seven countries. Our efforts will help workers and their families live healthier, more productive lives.

Of course none of this matters much if the water isn’t available in the first place.

Environmental experts predict global demand for water could exceed supply by 40 percent within the next two decades.  Through partners like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, we are also working with factories to reduce the amount of water they use to manufacture our products.  And through our Water Quality Program, the denim laundries that wash our jeans are treating the water they discharge to help protect the quality of water in those communities.

We’re exploring even more water conservation and management opportunities in the communities where we live and work. We look forward to sharing more as our programs continue to develop and expand.  Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 


ICYMI: Highlights from the @GapInc Investor Day

On April 16, we hosted our annual Investor Day, where Gap Inc. leaders outlined our advances in omni-channel retailing, global growth and supply chain. We live-tweeted the event, and in case you missed it, here's a recap.





Our mission comes to life

Every day, we’re taking more steps toward achieving our mission to be the world’s favorite for American style. Here’s a look at some of our latest global growth and omni-channel achievements.

This video was shown at our 2014 Investor Day. Learn more about the event.