Human trafficking

Allegations of child trafficking within the supply chain
Taking a multi-pronged approach to child protection
Gap Inc.
Publicly listed company (major shareholding held by the Fisher family)
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Gap Inc., which is headquartered in San Francisco, has more than 3,100 stores and fiscal 2008 revenues of US$14.5 billion. It operates five major clothing brands, including Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta.

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Dilemma: Allegations of child trafficking at a supplier's embroidery subcontractor

In October 2007 Gap Inc. investigated allegations into allegations of child labour at an unauthorised, makeshift facility in India that was working on a product for the GapKids line.

Good practice: Strengthened supply chain management and systemic change

Following the investigation, Gap Inc. cancelled the product order and ensured the garment would not be sold. The embroidery subcontractor involved was prohibited from any future production of Gap Inc. products and the vendor was placed on probation, with 50% of its orders suspended for six months. A summit was held of Gap Inc.'s North Indian vendors, to reinforce its 'zero tolerance' policy against child labour. Following its immediate action to put a stop to the violation, Gap Inc. also reviewed its policies and procedures in order to ensure the situation would not re-occur. This included:

  • Improved handwork supply chain tracking (including a more rigorous tracking mechanism, a requirement for vendors to produce detailed subcontracting plans, as well as vendor implementation of internal monitoring protocols)
  • Defined handwork production methods, including the encouragement (in order) of in-house production work, the use of NGO or union-run facilities, and vendor-sponsored facilities
  • Enhanced monitoring (through partnerships with local/global civil society to monitor and audit working conditions)
  • Education and awareness-raising (including a US$100,000 child rights advocacy programme in eastern India)

Building on this work - and in line with its multi-pronged approach to the issue of child labour and trafficking - Gap Inc. is working in partnership with governments, other brands, garment suppliers, and members of civil society to bring about broader, longer-term systemic change. In 2008 it hosted an industry conference in partnership with India's Ministry of Women and Child Development, various UN organisations, other brands/retailers and suppliers. This was focused on human trafficking and child labour in the apparel supply chain and helped launch a national platform for public-private partnership to jointly address these challenges.

Results: Securing human trafficking a firm place in the Indian apparel sector's agenda

The Government of India set up a think tank1 for the garment industry with representatives from relevant industry bodies to look at short, medium and long term strategies to combat human trafficking and child labour. Since 2008, human trafficking and child labour has emerged as a key issue on the apparel sector's agenda. In September 2008, for example, the Deputy Representative for the UNODC Regional Office for South Asia Ashita Mittal addressed the 2008 International Conference on Apparel and Home Textiles2 on the subject, whilst it was also included as a key agenda point for the 2009 meeting.3

Another direct result of the 2008 industry conference has been the establishment of an initiative between Gap Inc., Impulse (an India-based buying house), their common suppliers and a government-aided NGO called Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses in the Mewat region of northern India. This region is vulnerable to child labour and various other forms of human trafficking. As part of the initiative, Gap Inc.'s suppliers are helping over 200 female workers in the region learn handwork skills in order enhance their ability to make a living - helping reduce the causes of child labour and trafficking.

Gap Inc. is also approaching a number of Indian fashion schools and management institutions to build stronger links with industry. This is with the aim of raising awareness of this difficult and sophisticated issue.