While the Gap loves to get activist celebrities like John Mayer involved in its ad campaigns, it’s currently facing a bigger problem.
Namely, the discovery of child labor abuses at its factories.
From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Clothing retailer Gap Inc. said Sunday that it will convene all of its Indian suppliers to “forcefully reiterate” its prohibition on child labor after a British newspaper found children as young as 10 making Gap clothes at a sweatshop in New Delhi.
The Observer newspaper quoted the children as saying they had been sold to the sweatshop by their families in Indian states such as Bihar and West Bengal and would not be allowed to leave until they had repaid that fee.
Some, working as long as 16 hours a day to hand-sew clothing, said they were not being paid because their employer said they were still trainees.
Gap said it first learned of the child labor allegations last week and discovered the sweatshop was being run by a subcontractor that a vendor had hired in violation of Gap’s policies. The product made there will be destroyed so it cannot be sold in Gap stores, company spokesman Bill Chandler said.
“We appreciate that the media identified this subcontractor, and we acted swiftly in this situation,” Chandler told The Associated Press on Sunday. “Under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments.”
The key to this story is that it took a newspaper to uncover and publicize these abuses. Big manufacturers of all kinds are implicitly encouraging these labor abuses in a rush to lower costs, and practically none of them are policing the situation.
Major brands like the Gap are taking a big risk with their brand image by outsourcing responsibility when they outsource their production.
Want even more? Check out this Salt Lake Tribune series on China. It’ll make your skin crawl.