Gap becomes latest to reveal its supplier factories

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

AFP: Global clothier Gap Inc this week became the latest apparel retailer to identify the factories which produce its garments, helping shed light on how the world’s clothing is made.

The decision follows similar moves this year from fashion retailers Marks & Spencer and C&A, according to Human Rights Watch, which welcomed Gap’s disclosures as a boon to transparency in an industry that has been rife with abuse.

Activists have targeted the highly profitable “fast-fashion” industry, which churns out new low-cost garments daily or weekly to maximize sales volumes, calling on retailers to improve labor and environmental conditions at supplier factories in the impoverished developing world.

“I think the increased visibility will create increased information which ultimately will lead to helping garment workers across the globe,” David Hayer, Gap’s vice president for sustainability, told AFP.

A million workers currently produce Gap clothing in 885 factories in about 30 countries around the globe, according to Hayer. The company has reduced the number of supplier factories from about 2,000 six years ago to be able to manage relations, he said.

Gap markets its apparel under brands including Old Navy, Athleta, and Banana Republic as well as The Gap in more than 3,700 stores around the world.

In one of the world’s worst industrial accidents, more than 1,100 people died in April 2013 in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, where workers reportedly produced garments for Western retailers such as Walmart, Benetton and Joe Fresh. 

The United States subsequently suspended trade privileges for Bangladesh out of concern for labor rights.

Gap clothing has not been traced to Rana Plaza but the company did contribute to a fund for victims of the disaster.

Retailers have in the past been reluctant to invite greater scrutiny by identifying their suppliers. Hayer told AFP that Gap had previously been concerned this could give competitors a window on the company’s clothing in production. But other brands now identifying factories include H&M, Nike, Levis and Adidas.

In a 47-page document posted online, Gap Inc revealed the names and street addresses of suppliers in countries such as China, Bangladesh, Egypt, Cambodia, Guatemala, India and Indonesia.

Hayer said the disclosures should lead to greater accountability for vendors and for Gap.

 “The growing number of apparel industry leaders disclosing factories is good news for workers, the industry, and consumers,” Aruna Kashyap, senior women’s rights counsel at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.