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Facade of an Old Navy store.
Faced with footage of young girls working on Old Navy clothes in a garment finishing house in Bangladesh, Gap Inc.—Old Navy's parent company—is offering some pretty questionable excuses. The footage couldn't be much more clear:
Al Jazeera reporter Anjali Kamat gained entry to a Bangladesh "finishing house" by pretending to be an interested buyer. Finishing houses are where workers put the final touches on garments, affixing buttons and tags and the like. While inside the facility, Al Jazeera's crew captured footage of a 12-year-old girl putting elastic into a pair of jeans with an Old Navy label. They also found barcoded store tags bearing the retailer's name.
Those barcodes matched up with barcodes in Old Navy stores in the U.S. Yet Gap's first explanation was that the clothes must have been "counterfeit or improperly acquired." Gap also insisted it had no relationship with the finishing house in the video. But then why would the allegedly counterfeit clothes have accurate Old Navy barcodes? The next explanation made a little more sense: "Our investigation has led us to believe that one of our vendors may have improperly sold rejected product that failed to meet our qualifications." But if that explanation holds up, it doesn't mean Gap's metaphorical hands are clean.
"[E]ven if we lived in some parallel universe where this explanation had credibility, it would not exonerate Gap," [the Worker Rights Consortium's Scott] Nova said in an email. "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)."
No kidding. "We don't know or particularly care what's going on in our supply chain" is not actually an excuse for child labor. Not even if you pretend, after the fact, to care, and especially when you've refused to join a binding safety agreement despite massive disasters in the Bangladesh garment industry.

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