Gap (NYSE:GPS) may have found itself in hot water after a report from Al Jazeera America showed footage of Bangladeshi girls as young as 12 working on jeans with Old Navy tags, many of which had barcodes that linked back to stores.
Reporter Anjali Kamat's "Fault Lines" segment included footage of a 12-year-old girl in a Bangladesh "finishing house" putting elastic in a pair of jeans. They also found storage tags with the Old Navy brand.
"Through the barcodes on the tags we found at the finishing house, we were able to match the garments to ones at Old Navy stores in the U.S.," Kamat said in the piece.
Gap was quick to respond to the segment, asserting that the clothes might have been counterfeit or acquired by improper means. The company even went so far as to call Al Jazeera's report "misleading" and "false."
"Gap Inc. does not do business with Samie's Finishing House, the facility highlighted in Al Jazeera America's 'Fault Lines' program," the company said in a prepared statement. "A prompt investigation of Samie's Finishing House found no Gap Inc. products and no evidence that any Gap Inc. brands had placed orders there."
That may not be enough to get Gap off the hook. The whole counterfeit theory seems sunk by the tags and barcodes that were found at the site. They don't prove that those clothes were ever intended for sale in an Old Navy store, but they do confirm them as genuine.
Scott Nova, head of the Worker Rights Consortium, was particularly scathing in his comments to the Huffington Post. He described Gap's statement as a "Hail Mary" pass, and a move that still leaves the retailer with plenty to answer for.
"[E]ven if we lived in some parallel universe where this explanation had credibility, it would not exonerate Gap," he said. "They still would have to admit that they chose a grossly unscrupulous supplier and then failed to impose any discipline on that supplier (while nonetheless profiting from the relationship)."
Gap's contracting schemes seem to have left their agents and subcontractors in a complete corporate blind spot. Unfortunately for the company, ignorance isn't necessarily bliss.
- See this Huffington Post story
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