US: Gap plans 'sweatshop free' labels

Publisher Name: 
Guardian

In what would be the biggest commitment to ending child labour ever
undertaken by a major retailer, Gap Inc is drawing up plans to label
its products 'Sweatshop Free'.





The ambitious pledge, which would place the firm at the forefront of
the battle to end sweatshops, comes in response to an undercover
Observer investigation which last week exposed one of the firm's
Indian suppliers employing children as young as 10 to make
garments.





Yesterday, Gap's senior vice president, Stanley Raggio, flew from San
Francisco to New Delhi to meet the anti-sweatshop charity the Global
March Against Child Labour, to hammer out proposals to tackle child
labour.





According to Bhuwan Ribhu, a lawyer from the charity, the US
conglomerate set out a series of ambitious proposals including a move
that would see it relabelling its garments to allow the consumer to
directly track online exactly where they are made.





The system would closely mirror the highly successful RugMark
programme which has largely eradicated child labour in India's carpet
industry.





As an organisation operating independently of the carpet industry,
RugMark certifies carpets bearing its label are free of illegal child
labour. This is accomplished by monitoring looms and factories through
surprise and random inspections.





Ribhu said: 'We spoke at length to Gap and they informed us they are
looking at a certification system that marks a product with a label
"child labour free". This would be a bold step as the firm
would leave themselves open to prosecution if children were found
making their clothes again. Gap also intimated to me that they are
considering using independent monitoring of their suppliers in Asia
and this would operate along similar lines to the RugMark programme.
The firm is also calling on their competitors to adopt a similarly
tough stance.'





He added: 'The Observer's report should act as a wake-up call for the
entire industry and the business community at large. The industry
should now come together and make a strong commitment against child
labour and the trafficking of children for forced labour in their
entire chain of supply and sourcing. This should not only be in words
but in a clear and concrete plan of action.'





Speaking from San Francisco, Gap spokesman Bill Chandler confirmed
yesterday's meeting between senior Gap executives and the Global March
Against Child Labour and told The Observer the firm was laying down
the groundwork for a major commitment to fight the problem.





'Gap Inc has had many conversations with experts in the field before
and obviously since The Observer investigation,' he said. 'The company
is open to new ideas; we have shown that in the last decade. We are
open-minded, but at present discussions are ongoing and it is too
early to outline the extent of our proposals.





'We genuinely appreciate that The Observer identified this
subcontractor [using child labour], and we acted swiftly in this
situation. Under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to
produce or work on garments.'

Marka Hansen,
president of Gap North America, said the firm's prohibition of child
labour was non-negotiable.

AMP Section Name:Retail & Mega-Stores
  • 184 Labor