Sadie Keljikian, Top Billion Finance
As a result of the recent Paris Climate Talks, Gap Inc. announced that it will reduce its absolute greenhouse emissions by 50% by the end of 2020. The White House said of the gathering that “[t]oday, more than 190 countries came together to adopt the most ambitious climate change agreement in history.”
Though the ultimate extent of the agreement’s impact is still undecided, the Climate Talk’s proposals singled out the apparel industry as a particular industry of concern. In terms of manufacturing, the participants were particularly concerned about the wasted and polluted water, toxic chemicals in dyes, and massive quantities of landfill produced by more disposable clothing in recent years. Moreover, the industry relies on significant power usage and packaging in manufacturing and delivering its goods.
In response, Gap Inc., owner of Gap as well as Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta and Intermix, issued a report mandating halving emissions over the next five years. Representatives from the company claim that the reductions will be made throughout all of its subsidiaries, meaning that retail stores and factories alike will be revamped with a more conscientious model.
A significant part of the changes to take place will be measures to save electricity in the retail locations owned by the company, of which there are more than 3,000. Gap Inc. plans to replace light bulbs with more efficient LED lights, use smart thermostats, turn off unnecessary lights at night and use an industry shipment program to limit fuel wastage.
With a large portion of these improvements coming from energy usage, Melissa Fifield, senior director of sustainable innovation at Gap Inc. says: “The beautiful thing about energy savings, unlike some other areas, is it’s very directly tied to cost, and as the cost of energy goes up, there’s an incentive in the business to save that energy as well.”
Gap also plans to divert 80% of the waste from its domestic facilities away from landfills by recycling clothing materials as well as boxes, hangers, and plastic packaging used to ship merchandise.
But Gap isn’t stopping with environmental responsibility. Shoppers have shifted their focus away from cheap goods and have begun to gravitate toward companies with more ethical practices. Consumers consider whether factory employees worked under fair and safe conditions. Gap says they also plan on making a more concerted effort to manage the safety and well-being of factory employees abroad as they enact their new, kinder model.
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