Apparel brand Gap Inc. pushes for more supplier transparency

Apparel brand Gap Inc. pushes for more supplier transparency

In a significant step forward for transparency in supply chain management, Gap Inc. has begun publicly disclosing the list of factories from which it sources shoes and clothing.

In September, the specialty retail giant published on its website a list of 885 factories in roughly 30 countries, including locations in China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Guatemala.

Gap’s decision to disclose was spurred through a concerted campaign by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other NGOs, which have criticized the company for dragging its feet on full disclosure. The company had previously asserted that full transparency regarding suppliers would place it at a competitive disadvantage.

“The growing number of apparel industry leaders disclosing factories is good news for workers, the industry and consumers,” said Aruna Kashyap, HRW’s senior counsel for women’s rights. “Brands that do not disclose are holding out on a critical tool that can promote worker rights.” Other firms that recently made similar disclosures include Marks & Spencer and Dutch clothing chain C&A.

Calls for apparel industry reform have grown louder in the wake of the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, which killed 1,138 workers. Although Gap was not named as one of the western firms sourcing clothing from the factory, some of the factories it contracts with have been accused of child labour and other violations over the past several years. Groups like HRW argue that full disclosure of suppliers allows civil society groups to monitor and rapidly alert brand companies to any human rights violations at individual locations, as well as keep tabs on any attempts by factories to use unlicensed subcontractors.

The issue of subcontractors remains an ongoing concern with Gap as cost pressures at the company grow in the face of stagnating sales. Fast fashion competitors like H&M and Zara have demonstrated an ability to place smaller orders and change up styles to be more fashionable in as little as five weeks, placing substantial stress on the supply chain and often resulting in factories subcontracting smaller orders to unknown firms in the area. Last August Gap announced “a new product operating model to increase speed, predictability and responsiveness” in a bid to replicate the success of its rivals

Source: Corporate Knights, 23 January 2017. You can read the original here.

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