Companies failing to produce products ethically with the welfare of the workers in mind are not hopeless. Even companies that are seemingly hopeless can make the change if they change their values, create a plan, and set up accountability.
After the push back on opening factories in Myanmar in 2014 followed by being awarded the Worst Company Award of 2014 from Public Eye, Gap has claimed to have ‘thoroughly reassessed our approach to working with factories, laying the groundwork
for further progress,’. Has any of this come to fruition?
In 2016 Gap signed an agreement to disclose their factory list making their production more transparent. Transparency tends to be the first step to create a more just work environment that promotes the welfare of the workers rather than just the profit of the store. As the factories become more transparent human right abuses are harder to hide and therefore are lessened.
Gap has also started a program named One Stitch Closer to better support women. This program has Gap’s central program of P.A.C.E (Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement) at the core. This has provided 30.000 female workers to be educated as well as building life skills and technical training. Gap seems the value of empowering women and has made a program that does just that. When women are able to do well at the workplace they are able to help advance their families as well making this program very beneficial to family life and also communities.
Gap has also been working with Better Work (BW), a multi-stakeholder collaboration that creates a joint approach to monitoring factories, to help them improve and access their factories. With the help of BW, Gap has accessed each factory and has rated each factory on a color flag system. In 2014 Gap’s 1107 factories were rated as so, 12.2% dark green, 32.9% light green, 36.2% yellow, and 18.7% red. Gap is committed to getting all factories out of the red flag by 2020. It’d be easy to say why don’t they do it by 2017? But Gap is working to provide a sustainable shift in their workplaces instead of being rash and not looking at all the consequences. Also, by working by Better World they have created an accountability system to hold themselves to in the coming years.
Gap also states that, “To create widespread, sustainable change, we know that we must go beyond assessing and fixing issues at factories – we must support our suppliers in strengthening their own management”. Therefore, they have started training workers on good management practices, freedom of association, and anti-corruption. This will help to build long term and sustainable change in each factory.
Gap still has a lot of work to do but has set themselves up for progress. They have taken the initiative to admit their failures and create a plan for a better future. They have set up accountability, become more transparent, and have started to help the marginalized women in the workplace. Although they are not perfect we need to encourage and support their progress and plans for the future while also keeping them accountable to the standards they have set.
Better World Shopper: B
Written By: Katelynn Behrens