Gap Sustainability Report: Emissions Down 6% – But Gaps are Glaring

Gap water quality

by | Oct 3, 2013

Gap GHGsGap’s total scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions fell 6 percent last year, according to an Environmental Leader analysis of its 2011/2012 social and environmental responsibility report.

The company says its emissions last year were 516,765 – it does not say what the unit of measurement is – down from 549,855 in 2011 and 573,535 in 2010.

The company says it is aiming to cut absolute emissions 20 percent by 2015 in the US, based on 2008 levels. It earlier achieved a 20 percent cut per square foot between 2003 and 2008, beating a goal of 11 percent. But the report does not say how the company is progressing against its 2015 goal.

The majority of Gap’s GHG emissions come from scope 2, or electricity use (see chart), with upstream transportation and stationary combustion contributing less to the total. The company says it continues to measure both its absolute and per-square-foot emissions – but the report doesn’t show a square-foot GHG figure. Gap says it plans to report more comprehensively on its progress in 2015 (its target year).

Report overvew

As noted above and below, the report is missing a few key metrics. But in late 2012, Gap selected a new data provider to help it store, manage, and analyze its energy and GHG-related data. The company says that its new enterprise data management system will help it systematically track all relevant energy usage and emissions and allow it to better understand how it can reduce environmental impacts.

The company is also developing targets for its supply chain based on its 2011 and 2012 expansion in environmental measurement. In those years, the company started establishing baseline measures for supply chain energy use, GHG emissions, water use, waste management and environmental policies, using a group of 234 key factories in 21 countries. Gap examined the geographical location, size and operations of each facility together with the type and volume of products each facility manufactures.

Gap’s brands include Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime, Athleta and Intermix, as well as Gap, GapKids and babyGap. It has 136,000 employees and over 3,400 stores.


The company’s US energy consumption in kWh per square foot continues to fall and last year saw its biggest drop in six years – 12 percent, from 25.05 to 21.98.

Gap energy consumption

By operation, stores account for 68 percent of its energy use, outbound logistics for 17 percent, distribution centers 11 percent, headquarters 4 percent, and its corporate jet for 0.2 percent.

Gap energy by operation

The company does not specifically say what accounted for the 12 percent drop in energy consumption. But Gap has launched several pilot projects to explore the potential for LEDs in its stores. The company also launched a partnership with one of its vendors, GE, to conduct energy and waste “Treasure Hunts” at its Fresno, Calif., distribution center. Gap matched subject matter experts made up of service providers, engineers, energy consultants, motors, lighting and HVAC experts, with the distribution center’s management, operations and maintenance staff. Gap says that by acting on findings from the treasure hunt, it has found an average energy use reduction of 17 percent, with cost savings of close to 30 percent in the distribution center. The company recently completed another treasure hunt at a distribution center in Ohio and is planning one for a distribution center in Gallatin, Tennessee.

Gap is working with Ceres to create and implement a climate and energy policy to inform the company’s energy procurement.

Gap energy by source


Gap says it is working to address the water issues where it has the most direct influence, focusing its efforts on denim laundries and fabric mills. In denim laundries, garments are finished using large amounts of chemicals and water. In fabric mills, the dyeing and finishing processes also use significant amounts of dyes, chemicals, water and energy.

The company launched its water quality program in 2004 to monitor denim laundries’ wastewater discharge, requiring all laundries to adhere to a set of water quality guidelines. In 2010, it standardized these guidelines as a requirement for doing business with Gap brands.

The company did not report any water use or consumption data in this year’s report, but it did note that 65 of the company’s 72 denim laundries passed its water quality program last year, and 7 failed. In 2011, 77 out of 93 denim laundries passed.

The company is also implementing program to improve environmental practices in fabric mills. Through the program, it hopes to better understand fabric mills – which it does not source from directly, instead buying from cut-and-sew vendors. So far it has partnered with five mills in its supply chain, through a collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council and BSR’s Mills and Sundries Working Group, and is planning to extend this partnership to about 15 more mills over the next three years.

In 2013, it is partnering with Conservation International to conduct national-level assessments of freshwater risk for key sourcing countries.

The company says both droughts and floods have increasingly interrupted the global cotton supply, with serious implications for apparel supply chains including Gap’s. In 2010, cotton prices hit a nearly two-decade high. In 2011, Gap cut its profit forecast by 22 percent after the Texas drought killed much of the year’s cotton crop. Gap also says that increasing water shortages and restrictions could affect its ability to operate in certain regions.

Gap water quality


Gap says it has a high degree of control over reducing waste in its office buildings and distribution centers, but that reducing waste at the store level is often more challenging, because the stores are often tenants and have less influence over key infrastructure and processes. The company says it is creating a comprehensive waste strategy and accompanying goal that will minimize its waste production upstream and downstream, including its owned and operated facilities, through the end of products’ lifecycle.

Gap is also partnering with other retailers through industry groups such as the Retail Industry Leaders Association to create a “green lease,” which will help it to include terms in lease agreements to establish recycling infrastructure and energy efficiency priorities. With the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association and Sears, Gap has implemented demonstration projects to recycle plastic shipping material.


In 2012, Gap piloted the Higg Index, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s indicator-based tool for measuring the environmental impact of apparel products across the supply chain. It started by testing four high-volume products that it produces each season.

The index helped Gap understand where it should focus its efforts, the company says. For example, it learned that its Wise Wash initiative – which has created jeans using 25 percent less water, electricity, and chemicalswould significantly improve Gap’s Higg score scaled across all products in a given category. The company also found that replacing some of its air freight with less carbon-intensive methods such as rail would have a positive impact on its score.

As a result of its Higg Index pilot, Gap has created a Sustainable Fiber Toolkit for designers and production teams across its brands.

Gap is a member of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Programme, working to reach the zero-discharge goal by 2020.

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