Gap was founded in the 1960s and initially targeted at young shoppers, the name supposedly referring to the ‘Generation Gap’ in the 1960s, between parents who had experienced economic depression and war and teenagers who had grown up during the Golden Age of Capitalism. As such, it originally sold LPs alongside Levi jeans, promoting its stores as a cool alternative to wherever your parents shopped. In the decades since, Gap has expanded its remit to appeal to families, not just teenagers, with several subsidiary brands filling out any gaps in the market for clothes: Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, Intermix, and Athleta are all owned and operated by Gap Inc. Between them, they make and sell clothes of all kinds and all price ranges for all kinds of people.
Gap have an unusually thorough statement of ethics on their website, including comprehensive commitments to the environment, human rights, their employees and their communities. Their work includes the promotion of women’s rights, as they recognise that despite making up a majority of garment makers, women only take a tiny minority of management positions. Gap has worked with various individuals and organizations, including a former US ambassador, to implement programs that aim to fix this discrepancy. Their work with women includes education and training programs which help move them beyond roles on the factory floor and empower them in their wider lives, too. Gap are hoping to roll out this program across more factories and countries, helping the fight against gender inequality globally.
Their environmental policy is comprehensive, taking in energy use everywhere from corporate headquarters to the factory floor, as well as how they process waste, maintain clean water while minimizing the use of water, and how they can manufacture products that live up to the highest environmental standards. Their recent changes in policy have led to 75% of waste from their San Francisco HQ that previously went into landfills being redirected to recycling or composting facilities. And of course, the HQ makes up just a tiny part of their overall footprint: Similar policies worldwide are helping to improve environmental standards throughout Gap’s supply chain.
Following criticism throughout the clothing industry that supply chains were not sufficiently well-vetted and were committing human rights abuses while retailers turned a blind eye, Gap has attempted to remedy the situation. Gap works with the International Labor Organization and the governments of countries where its clothes are made to try and improve working conditions globally. In an unusually honest statement on their corporate website, Gap acknowledge that they ‘still encounter issues that reoccur or take longer than they should to fix’ but continue to work toward an improvement in labor standards for all workers.
Despite the generally patchy history of clothing manufacturers, Gap are doing more than most companies of any kind to ensure that they recognize and uphold human rights across the world while still providing a saleable product and providing a profit to their investors. Gap outlet coupons help keep prices low, too, so that their clothes remain affordable to the average family.