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Monday
Apr142014

Helping garment workers

By Sasha Radovich, Social & Environmental Responsibility

It had been four years since I last set foot in Dhaka. 

I used to fly to Bangladesh every few months in my former role, working alongside key organizations to improve business practices within the garment industry.   Today I’m doing the same kind of work as a Gap Inc. employee.  

I recently returned to participate in the first-ever fire and building safety expo in the country’s history.  I saw first-hand how Gap Inc.’s own fire and structural safety efforts are impacting every factory we work with in Bangladesh and it left me feeling hopeful like never before.

Everyone who has worked in Bangladesh knows that it is challenging. Despite the garment industry’s significant growth here, the government has made little investment in raising and enforcing factory standards.  Social unrest is common, particularly among factory workers. The impact of poverty on people’s health and lack of education is startling. And the complexities of doing business in a country that has frequent disruptions due to strikes and port closures is, to say the least, difficult.

Yet the livelihood of more than two million workers in Bangladesh, most of whom are women, depends on its garment industry. 

Gap Inc. launched its 4-point fire and building safety program in 2012. But we knew our impact needed to extend beyond the factories we worked with.  It’s why we played an integral role in founding the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety following the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse. That tragedy underscored the need for all global retailers to take action to improve the lives of these workers; regardless of the fact that Gap Inc. did not make clothes there.  Along with the Alliance’s 25 North American apparel companies, we are working to implement new standards across the industry to build sustainable changes. 

Nearly every one of the factories we work with has made significant progress, including simple yet life-saving changes like adding hand-rails on staircases and fire detection systems. We’re also seeing bigger investments across the board, such as purchasing and importing fire safety doors and sprinkler systems. 

I’m optimistic that our efforts will have a long-lasting impact on garment workers here. And, I am proud to be a part of this progress. 

 

Wednesday
Apr092014

Gap recycled materials debut on stage, not in landfills 

Next time you’re at an off-Broadway theater production in New York, look a little more closely at the stage costumes — you might see fabric that once belonged to Gap.

For the past 20 years, we have been donating all kinds of material — fabric, trim, paper, frames — to a non-profit called Materials for the Arts. These supplies go to more than 4,000 arts organizations, public schools and city agencies throughout New York City.

For example, a piece of foam core we used to create a storyboard (an integral part of our product creation cycle) might debut in a classroom as part of an art project or game. A bolt of fabric might make its way to the theater stage as a costume or even a puppet.  Used cloth becomes part of a fashion-design student’s newest project. The possibilities are endless.

This has allowed Gap to divert 29,814 pounds of materials from the landfill in the last three years alone. It’s our way to keep art and fashion moving forward in the community, while also protecting the environment.

Whether it’s through our office moves or general spring cleaning at our 55 Thomas location in New York, we all know that these materials have a second life cycle. As we continue on our path to be the world’s favorite for American style, we also push toward sustainable style — because it’s the right thing to do.  

In April, to celebrate Earth Month, we’ll be sharing more about the creative ways we’re working to protect the environment.

If you are in the New York area and are interested in the donated materials, contact Materials for the Arts.

(Photo Credit: Materials for the Arts)

Tuesday
Apr082014

Trending Now: Active wear

In 2013, the hottest trend in retail wasn’t ripped jeans or leather – it was active wear.  

Active inspired and true performance pieces like trainers and leggings have become the go-to items for women to buy for both fitness and fashion. In fact, the women’s active wear category grew 6.4 percent in 2013, which is nine times faster than the women’s general apparel market, according to NPD Group data.

Nancy Green, General Manager of Athleta, talked with employees recently about what that category growth means for the brand.

“What this growth is telling us is that women are shifting dollars from other categories into active wear,” Nancy said. “That’s hugely important to Athleta, not only because we play in the active space, but because we also have ‘to and from’ categories at Athleta like sweaters, outerwear and dresses.”

The fast-growing active wear category isn’t the only trend happening in the industry. 

Brands are also seeing a macro-trend of clothing that is traditionally thought of for fitness appearing in fashion trends. High fashion-focused brands, including Chanel and Dior, are jumping on the “fitness meets fashion” trend and showing performance pieces on runways from New York City to Paris. 

“There is a crossover happening  with active wear moving into street style and what women now see as acceptable to wear everywhere in their lives,” Nancy said.

At its core, Athleta is a performance brand, so fitness will continue to be at the center of everything we do. Bringing together those fashion and performance elements is essential to creating premium quality, versatile products for our customers. The brand’s technical expertise is also a huge advantage.

“A lot of new players in the space are trying to capitalize on active wear trends,” Nancy said. “Athleta knows that technical expertise in premium performance is critical to succeed in this industry. It may be harder for fashion players to build credibility without it.”

Are you buying more active wear items and wearing them outside the gym? Share with us below!

Thursday
Apr032014

‘Giving back’ in the Philippines

Opening our first Old Navy franchise store in Manila was an incredibly rewarding experience.

Playing musical chairs with 50 displaced pre-school kids was better.

After a hugely successful grand opening at the Bonafacio High Street store in Manila, 25 volunteers from our Old Navy team and our franchise partner climbed into a bus for a slow and bumpy ride to the rural outskirts of Manila.

After two hours, we finally arrived in the rain at Children’s Hour Preschool Complex in Calauan, Laguna.

Children’s Hour is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote education for all, to reduce malnutrition and hunger and to advocate child protection.

It’s basically a small and self-sustaining village they’re trying to build here — houses, a school, farming, a kitchen and a clinic for families who were displaced from living homelessly along the Pasig River in Manila.

Between downpours, we painted what we could of the complex, but the real fun started when 50 kids, ages 3-to-6 years old joined us for “social interaction.”

Shy at first, the kids started to warm up when we began fitting them with personal “slippers” (flip flops). It wasn’t long before we were playing a surprisingly competitive round of musical chairs and other local games. Our time with the kids ended after providing them with a warm lunch and giving them each a bag filled with goodies to share with their families.

“It was an honor and a privilege to work with Children’s Hour,” said Blair Dunn, General Manager, Old Navy Franchise. “Opening a store in one of the most fashionable districts of Manila is only part of the story. You need to see more of the country and its people. And give back, whereever you can.”

To find out more about how Gap Inc. is ‘doing more than selling clothes’ go to www.gapinc.com/domore.  

 

 

Tuesday
Apr012014

How we’re celebrating Earth Month

By Spencer Fraley, Strategic Sourcing, and Jason Walters, Social & Environmental Responsibility

Gap stores are all about “Being Bright.” But they can be bright and green too.

Lighting our thousands of stores around the globe for our six brands is one of the biggest impacts on our power usage and our greenhouse gas emissions.

What may seem like small changes can have big impacts when it comes to our environment. That’s why it’s a priority for Gap Inc. to be on the leading edge of installing energy-efficient LED lights. 

On top of using only about 20 percent of the energy consumed by conventional lights, LED lights last 5-10 times as long and stay much brighter over their long life spans.

And good news is we’ve already surpassed our goal to reduce climate-altering greenhouse gasses output by 20 percent in 2015.

We worked hard to help our store designers and brand teams get comfortable that the new LED lights would give off a soft, natural light and make our clothes look just as good as — or even better than — before.

The result? Close to 30 percent of our U.S. stores have already been converted to energy-saving LED lighting that pays back a handsome return on investment in just two to three years, and greatly reduces our energy usage.

Japan and the U.K. have converted all of their stores to LED lighting. Our stores in China already use efficient lighting, and our team is looking to use LED lights in our expanding fleet there.

Expect us to be shining the light on our environmental and conservation policies throughout the month of April as we celebrate Earth Month.