OPERATIONS

Gap moves toward cotton sustainability

BY Dan Berthiaume

Gap Inc. is making environmentally friendly changes to how it sources a crucial material.

The vertical specialty apparel retailer intends to derive 100% of its cotton from more sustainable sources by 2025. Cotton’s fibers are used in a significant portion of products across the Gap brand, including bed linens, jackets and pants. However, Gap says much of the world’s cotton is grown in areas where people have difficulty accessing clean water due to pollution and droughts, which is further exacerbated by climate change.

By sourcing sustainably farmed and sourced cotton, Gap is supporting farmers who use water efficiently through better irrigation practices. Cotton is one of the most water-intensive crops grown. According to data provided by Gap, a single pair of jeans uses an average of 1,600 gallons of water throughout its full life cycle, 64% of which is used to grow cotton.

In addition, Gap has been sourcing cotton grown according to the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) since 2016. BCI is a long-term multi-stakeholder initiative that develops and promotes good farm practices, allowing more cotton to be grown while reducing water and chemical use and protecting both working conditions and biodiversity.

Other cotton-related sustainability efforts Gap is following include cotton that is organic, recycled, and verified American- or Australian-grown. By 2021, Gap brand is committed to sourcing 100% of its cotton from more sustainable sources. Old Navy will also increase its sourcing of sustainable cotton to 100% by 2022, and Banana Republic will source 100% of its cotton from more sustainable sources by 2023.

In May, Gap CEO Art Peck announced that Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic are launching denim with 5% post-consumer mechanically-recycled cotton content.

Gap’s cotton sustainability efforts will also support a broader manufacturing goal to conserve a total of 10 billion liters of water by the end of 2020.

“We’re proud to support innovations that protect natural resources and foster cleaner, safer communities for families around the world,” said Keith White, Gap Inc.’s executive VP of Global Sustainability. “Sourcing cotton in a way that reduces water use and damage to the climate is about creating a healthy environment for our children and future generations.”

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