By  on August 22, 2011

Gap Inc. Monday set a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 20 percent over a seven-year period concluding in 2015, backing up the 20 percent cut achieved over five years ending in 2008.

In its fifth Social and Environmental Responsibility Report, issued biennially, the San Francisco-based apparel retailer cited progress on a number of environmental and human rights fronts, but left the firm with goals remaining to be accomplished, including several supply chain imperatives scheduled for completion this year, and issued a challenge to its competitors.

“While we’re not perfect, we’re proud of the progress made,” said Glenn Murphy, chairman and chief executive officer of Gap. “To achieve lasting change, we need all apparel brands to commit to making ongoing improvements in the lives of garment workers and to the environment.”

Gap noted a 22.5 percent cut in its U.S. energy consumption per square foot between 2004, when it measured 33 kilowatt hours per square foot, and 2010, when the number was reduced to 25.6. Total greenhouse gas emissions from all sources in the U.S. were reduced 13.2 percent to 573,535 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents last year from 660,493 two years earlier.

Gap was able to report that it had met its goal that all of its branded denim is made in compliance with its Water Quality System, which requires that wastewater from denim laundries used to manufacture Gap merchandise be free of toxic chemicals or visible discharge and not send sewage into “open bodies of water.” Of 104 facilities involved in the program last year, 94 passed Gap’s test and 10 were working with the firm to achieve compliance and be cleared for production. By comparison, there were 100 passes and nine fails in 2009 and 71 passes and 19 fails in 2008.

By replacing 16,000 light bulbs with more efficient models in its distribution centers, Gap said it cut their energy consumption by 40 percent. The use of more space-efficient containers and new packaging in its U.S. operations helped save 57,000 tons of cardboard and 63 million yards of plastic bands per year, yielding annual savings of about $20 million at the same time.

The report disclosed that 26 percent of its U.S. and Canadian employees were male, versus 33 percent of its store and headquarters managers, and that non-white minorities accounted for 41 percent of its employees and 30 percent of its management.

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