Gap has disclosed the list of factories from which it sources shoes and clothing. There are 885 such factories in roughly 30 countries, including China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Guatemala. Other firms that recently made similar disclosures include Marks & Spencer and Dutch clothing chain C&A.
This is a significant step forward for transparency in supply chain management. Full disclosure of suppliers allows civil society groups to monitor and rapidly alert brands to any human rights violations at individual locations as well as keep tabs on attempts by factories to use unlicensed subcontractors.
The issue of subcontractors remains an ongoing concern with Gap as cost pressures at the company grow in the face of stagnating sales. Fast fashion competitors like H&M and Zara have demonstrated an ability to place smaller orders and change up styles to be more fashionable in as little as five weeks. Gap has announced a new product operating model to increase speed, predictability and responsiveness in a bid to replicate the success of its rivals.
Calls for apparel industry reform have grown louder in the wake of the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, which killed 1,138 workers. Although Gap was not named as one of the western firms sourcing clothing from the factory, some of the factories it contracts with have been accused of child labor and other violations over the past several years.