The Gap (Inc.) in Utilitarian Thinking

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Child labor seems to be an ever-existing problem. We hear of it in the news constantly and while the issue has been slowly decreasing, there is no sign of its eradication in the near future. One industry that seems to have the majority of issues is the textile and retail industries with massive amounts of outsourced production in third world countries. One such company is Gap, Inc. (Gap), which has been a popular source of casual and business clothing throughout the world, which, in addition to the Gap also includes branches like Old Navy and Banana Republic.   In 2007, Gap was accused of using child labor in their Indian factories and while it seemed clear that is was a misunderstanding and was strictly being addressed, it was not the first time Gap had been faced with children working on their clothing overseas.  Fortunately, we see that Gap realized their past mistakes in dealing with child labor and had put in place a new management style addressing such issues. The following review will provide a look into the story behind Gap’s influences and decisions, as well as analyze the ethical dilemmas that required redress. Continue reading

Made in India


In figuring out what type of book I wanted to use for my second paper, I decided I needed a bit more background on my major focus: child labor. I plan to write about Gap, Inc and their extensive program against child labor. This idea is interesting to me considering children as young as four were discovered in their India factories. It seems to me that child labor then must be hard to detect and monitor, but I wanted to find out more. So I used our library catalogue to find a book about child labor, particularly in India. I also made sure the book was relatively recent, as I assume and hope that regulation has changed significantly in recent years.  Continue reading

Aiding a Cause or Causing Agony?

The end of the play was my favorite part. The professor’s real life experience in China was enlightening. I liked her description of the jobs as being mundane and boring but not in horrible conditions. When she says that, “value judgment isn’t as simple as it seems at first,” I truly thought about my reaction to our original introduction to Daisey. I could not believe the conditions people worked in and that we accepted it by buying these products. But the realization that people know what the working conditions are like before accepting jobs and willingly working in these factories makes a bit different. It’s still not completely fair or right, but the jobs in these factories give workers their well-being. It’s hard to know where to draw the line between being forced to work and working willingly when conditions are bad. In a way, these people are forced to work in order to sustain their lives and the lives of their families and factory jobs are the only ones they can get. On the other hand, they apply for and accept these jobs that happen to bring us these great products. I have a hard time deciding whether or not buying the product is buying into a belief that it is okay and we are just giving people jobs or if it is in fact our consumerism that is adding to a horrible world practice. The professor in the play helped me to lean toward the former with her statement of economic purpose, but I find myself still hesitant to except either position.

Last semester I worked with a student from China in a group project in which we had to do extensive research on a public company. We chose Gap, Inc. He was very passionate about exposing the child labor scandal Gap had in Indonesia. They apparently were using sweat shops similarly to how Daisey explained Apple to be. So we were interested in asking if he was concerned about similar cases in China. Being from Hong Kong, he did not have any direct connection to the“sweat shop” like factories and seemed more interested in discussing that poor working conditions are not just in China, but all over the world. It was almost as if he was upset China was labeled this way.

The Gap, Inc.

Gap, Inc. believes in community investment. On their “social responsibility” page they explain the mantra, “Be What’s Possible”. They focus community investment on under privileged children in the US and women in developing countries. It is clear, according to Gap, Inc. that those they aid in investing are not considered just investments but partners. They can say this truthfully because they do not just contribute cash, but innovation. Problem solving for the Gap involves solving social problems creating solutions worldwide. Gap, Inc. maintains this theory with what they term the “Virtuous Cycle”.  The virtuous cycle delivers a collective benefit to the community, shareholders, employees, and consumers. Gap believes that is all can move forward, everyone wins and that is what they strive for in investing in the community.

I think Milton would have a problem with Gap’s thinking. He would most likely believe it is too unanimous and that social responsibility is not that easy. Milton would argue that community investment must in some way have a negative effect on at least one of the parties in the “virtuous cycle” Edward would most likely find that Gap has found a way to merge the Separation Thesis. In creating meaning for the employees and consumers, the Gap goes beyond the economics of business to create virtue and meaning to the work done and money spent.

With its community investments, Gap, Inc. seems to be a stakeholder manager. They provide aid beyond monetary value to partners worldwide and seem benefit all collectively in the process. While their model is a but optimistic, it is on the right path to creating higher stakes than just economic benefit.