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Gap Aims to Cut GHGs 20% by 2015

Gap has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2015, from a 2008 baseline, in the company’s fifth Social and Environmental Responsibility report.

The greenhouse gas goal follows an earlier 20 percent decrease in GHG emissions from 2003 to 2008, exceeding a goal of 11 percent set as part of Gap’s participation in the now-defunct Climate Leaders program.

According to the biennial report, total scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions also fell in the past two years, from 660,493 metric tons CO2e in 2008, to 598,767 in 2009 and 575,535 in 2010.

Gap will focus its greenhouse gas reductions on its U.S. properties, the report said. “Though we are a global company, we are focused on our U.S. stores and facilities, as they continue to represent more than 75 percent of sales,” it said.

Gap’s other current environmental goals are:

  • By 2012, improve robustness of energy data to include employee travel & commuting
  • By 2012, improve robustness and integrity of waste data
  • By 2013, continue to pilot waste management and recycling initiatives at the store level
  • By 2013, improve robustness of energy data to include global operations
  • By 2013, complete supply chain footprint assessment
  • By 2014, develop water assessment and strategy, and pilot water conservation/efficiency program.

The report said that in 2009, Gap met three targets: to complete the first phase of an environmental footprint assessment across select owned and operated locations; to complete implementation of its denim water quality program; and to have LEED-accredited designers at Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands.

In 2010 it met another three targets: to develop quantifiable environmental goals based on data from its environmental footprint assessment; and to introduce store-level and supply chain waste management initiatives.

The company says its footprint assessment has provided key insights into where it is having an environmental impact and how it can best approach making improvements. The first phrase examined energy, water usage, effluents and waste (including wastewater, solid waste and hazardous waste), focusing on North American facilities where Gap controls operations and can make changes most easily. This includes its nine headquarters buildings, four design studios, five distribution center campuses, and more than 2,500 stores.

The assessment found that electricity use in Gap stores was a significant area of opportunity, making up 71 percent of the company’s energy consumption. As a result, Gap has focused on improving the efficiency of lighting in stores, as well as their overall energy management.

The company’s energy consumption has been in decline for the past two years: from 4,793,614 million Btu in 2008, to 4,381,805 million Btu in 2009 and 4,252,329 million Btu in 2010. Gap reduced electricity consumption in its distribution centers by 40 percent by replacing more than 16,000 light bulbs with more energy efficient lights, and also installed a 1 MW solar array at its distribution center in Fresno, Calif.

To have the greatest positive impact, we prioritized our efforts to focus first on the facilities that we own and operate, because we have more control over the energy they use and the waste we create and, therefore, more opportunity to create immediate change,” the report said. “We are now beginning to look farther into our supply chain, where we believe the majority of our impact lies. The water and energy used in manufacturing our products is a significant focus of our efforts moving forward.”

Gap said its environmental strategy focuses on three areas where it can create positive impact in the short or long term: energy and water conservation,  cotton and sustainable design, and reducing waste.

In the realm of water, Gap says, “While we have direct control over water usage inside our facilities, for instance, we see potentially even more impact in changing how water is used in the manufacture of our products… For this reason, we’re working to develop a comprehensive water strategy.”

At the end of 2009, Gap made participation in its Water Quality Program a requirement for suppliers. The program is designed to ensure that all laundries finishing products for Gap brands treat wastewater properly before discharge.

But in 2010, only 94 of 104 denim laundries passed the program (see chart, above). Gap says it is working with those denim laundries that are non-compliant on corrective action plans to help bring them into compliance.

Gap said it is also partnering with the Natural Resources Defense Council to greatly reduce water usage and improve operational efficiencies at large fabric mills in China.

The company said the first phase of its footprint assessment highlighted where its needs more detailed information about its waste and disposal practices. It is now working to more accurately identify waste streams and to pilot programs to increase waste recycling

Gap also said that its distribution centers have changed to containers that are more space-efficient, use less corrugate and are made of recyclable material. It expects the program to reduce cardboard waste by 57,000 tons and save about $20 million a year. By changing its shipping practices, it also expects to eliminate 63 million yards of plastic strapping.

Beyond operations and supply chain, the company said that it is building connections between its environmental and social responsibility activities, with the company’s participation in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition a case in point. And Gap said it is also supporting public policies that will help address climate change.

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