December 02, 2004
Gap-Verite Collaboration Exemplifies Award-Winning Practice on Social Responsibility
by William Baue
Verite wins a Social Capitalist Award for labor standards monitoring such as its work with the Gap,
whose Social Responsibility Report earns a Social Reporting Award.
Company magazine and the global monitoring firm Monitor Group announced the 25 recipients
of the Social Capitalist Awards that recognize organizations for "devising ingenious ways" to fuse
social progress and business success. Among those honored was Amherst, Massachusetts-based Verité, an independent nonprofit that provides
monitoring, auditing, and training on global labor standards compliance.
Concurrently, the Sixteenth Annual Business Ethics Awards were announced in the
latest edition of that magazine. Winner of the Social Reporting Award was Gap Inc. (ticker: GPS) for its
groundbreaking 2003 Social Responsibility
Report. This report received widespread praise for its frank disclosure of shortcomings in
compliance with the Gap's Vendor Code of
Conduct, which also serves as a point of intersection with Verité.
"By engaging an
organization such as Verité, the Gap is strengthening the meaning and credibility of their Vendor
Code of Conduct," said Allison Devore, director of development for Verité. "We're working with the
Gap conducting a big picture assessment of their global vendor compliance program."
Verité understands the big picture at the Gap because it engages with companies throughout the
value chain, from consulting with top management to monitoring working conditions on suppliers'
production lines. Verité's comprehensive scope also extends to its ability to gather a wide range
of diverse actors impacted by corporate activities.
"We've been able to create a
diversified global network of stakeholders including governments, nongovernmental organizations,
investment institutions, and companies that are able to engage together from the factory to the
boardroom to address issues of compliance," Ms. Devore told SocialFunds.com.
exactly what Paul Pressler, the Gap's CEO, calls for in the report.
"We are convinced that
collaborative, multi-stakeholder engagement is the only way to create sustainable change
industrywide," states Mr. Pressler. "That's why we’ve been expanding our global partnerships and
significantly broadening our work with outside groups."
What so distinguishes the Gap
report is not only its disclosure of punishment for non-compliance, but also its confession of
areas where monitoring fails to expose transgressions that the Gap suspects are happening despite
"In 2003, we revoked the approval of 136 factories" for code violations,
Mr. Pressler writes in the report.
Perhaps the most refreshingly honest aspect of the
report is its admission that discrimination and freedom of association violations are likely more
widespread than the data suggests. However, this is also one of the distressing aspects of the
report, as it reveals how much work remains to lift the veil hiding these problems.
is helping to do some of this work.
"A lot of our work right now is at the next level of
engagement, working with companies to actually resolve conflicts between workers and management,"
said Ms. Devore. "We're seeing a gradual evolution of companies who are interested in conducting
Verité inhabits a unique position between company and worker that lends
strength to its ability to bridge differences. Its independence is a key to maintaining this
"The Social Capitalist Award evaluated organizations on five areas--in one the
other areas, sustainability, we've diversified our funding to remain independent and objective as a
nonprofit organization with a balanced revenue stream from individuals, government, foundations,
and corporations, both as clients and as sponsors," Ms. Devore points out.
assessment areas include entrepreneurship, innovation, social impact, and vision. Verité's work,
such as its collaboration with the Gap, exemplifies outstanding practice in all of these areas.
Other organizations that received Social Capitalist Awards for exhibiting these strengths
include microfinance pioneers Acción
International and Grameen Foundation USA,
social philanthropists Social Venture
Partners, and fair trade advocates TransFair USA.
The Gap's report enacts key
Business Ethics Awards criteria, including meeting challenges with integrity and for leading their
field by showing the way ethically in a fashion that sends a loud signal globally.
recipients of the Business Ethics Awards include Dell (DELL), which won the Environmental
Progress Award for its computer-recycling initiatives, as well as two smaller Vermont-based
companies. Chroma Technology won the Living
Economy Award for employee ownership and fair wages, and King Arthur
Flour won the Social Legacy Award for long-term commitment to employees and the environment.