Gap Finds Doing the Right Thing Can Be Hard

Jul 14, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The Gap wants to do the right thing when it comes to protecting factory workers at overseas suppliers.

“We recognize our responsibility to be a catalyst for sustainable change, and believe an integrated approach that includes collaborative multi-stakeholder engagement can help drive lasting progress across our industry,” said Gap Inc. CEO and president Paul Pressler in a released statement. “Although we still face many challenges, we are encouraged by the progress we’ve made over the past year across several areas.”

The company released its second annual social responsibility report yesterday summarizing the findings of 92 inspectors who monitored 99.9 percent of the factories supplying product to Gap Inc. in 2004.

The retailer said it had invited Social Accountability International (SAI) and Verité to assess its monitoring efforts and that it was making modifications to its program based on those recommendations to further improve the process.

As a result of its inspection program, Gap Inc. said it stopped doing business in 2004 with 70 factories for failure to live up to the company’s Code of Vendor Conduct. That figure was down from 136 in 2003.

Fifteen percent of factories that sought to become vendors in 2004 were rejected because they did not mean minimum standards set by the company compared to 16 percent the year before.

Bob Jeffcott, policy analyst for the Maquila Solidarity Network, a workers’ rights group in Toronto told The Associated Press he is encouraged by what Gap Inc. is doing.

He cautioned, however, if the problems of foreign factory workers are going to be dealt with, Gap Inc. and others using overseas labor are going to have to pay suppliers more for the goods they are producing.

“No one is dealing with the fundamental question on how much you should be paying these suppliers so they can afford to pay their workers better wages,” he said.

Part of the issue of price squeeze, admits Gap Inc., are its own “inefficient purchasing practices” that often put last-minute demands on suppliers to deliver product.

Moderator’s Comment: What are the practical benefits, if any, that you see connected to Gap Inc.’s attempts to improve conditions for overseas factory

George Anderson – Moderator

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3 Comments on "Gap Finds Doing the Right Thing Can Be Hard"

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Robert McMath
Robert McMath
15 years 7 months ago
The poll shows this to be good publicity, and I think it is going to help with more stable relations with its suppliers. But the fact remains the more we outsource, the more we are putting a strain on our own purchasing power to purchase the products we are getting from overseas. Heard of a case where the son of a friend had been laid off from his work at a US Government Bureau. He was an educated and trained satellite reader for studying what our US observation satellites photograph as they sail across the sky. The Government has outsourced the work to people in Ireland. Less expensive of course, but that left the guy virtually without a job possibility given what he was doing was so specialized. Do that enough and there will be precious few who can afford what our corporations want to sell us that they make — either here or overseas! I for one look more and more for goods that identify they are made in the USA, and when there… Read more »
Karen Kingsley
Karen Kingsley
15 years 7 months ago

Good PR is the primary benefit, however, a consistent supply chain, and higher quality goods are a likely benefit as well.

Honestly though, for the employees at Gap, sleeping well may be the greatest benefit of all. If US-based Gap employees can feel better about the company they work for, particularly in light of recent corporate misdeeds, the morale of the US-based workforce will show more benefits than any of the previous advantages.

Mark Lilien
15 years 7 months ago

It can be great PR if they make sure everyone knows about it. It’s on their web site, but not specifically on the home page. I wonder if they say anything about social responsibility in the store signage or on the clothing labels. It’s great to be ethical and its smart to make sure you get the credit for it.


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