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Gap Plans To Halve Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 2020

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Gap is one of the first major retailers to commit to cutting its absolute greenhouse gas emissions after the landmark climate change agreement in Paris last month.

In a report published Thursday, the company says it plans to halve emissions at its stores, offices and distribution facilities around the world from 2015 levels by the end of 2020, after successfully reducing them by 38% from 2008 levels as of the end of 2015.

While containing the world's rising greenhouse gas emissions is an almost impossibly complex global undertaking, Gap's efforts, focused on more than 3,000 Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic stores, are easier to understand.

Much of the reductions so far have come from installing longer-lasting, more efficient LED lighting and smart thermostats at stores, turning off unnecessary lights at night and using an industry shipment program to improve fuel efficiency. Shuttering stores has also contributed, but to a lesser extent, said Melissa Fifield, the senior director of sustainable innovation at Gap Inc.

Gap's commitment only extends to facilities it owns or operates, and therefore the factories that produce its clothes — a significant chunk of the company's environmental footprint. But it underscores a growing acknowledgment among retailers that they need to find ways to make their businesses less harmful both to workers and the environment.

“Certainly in response to the climate negotiations in Paris and with what we're seeing in the world, we feel this is an appropriate step for our company,” she told BuzzFeed News. “We have a large store footprint and the greenhouse gas emissions lighting those stores has a fairly sizable impact.”

Leaders at Gap, H&M, North Face-owner VF Corp. and Levi's called for a strong climate change agreement during last month's Paris talks. It helps that for clothing retailers, reducing environmental impact can also be good for the bottom line.

“The beautiful thing about energy savings, unlike some other areas, is it's very directly tied to cost, and as the cost of energy goes up, there's an incentive in the business to save that energy as well,” Fifield said. “There's a significant environmental impact and savings to the business as well.”

The fashion industry and the relatively recent rise of disposable clothing haven't been great for the planet. There are the toxic chemicals used to make certain clothes, lots of wasted and polluted water and the mountains of apparel tossed into landfills every year. And then there's all the energy expended along the life of a garment, from manufacturing to transportation to a sales floor.

Gap, as part of its announcement, also said it will try to divert 80% of the waste from its U.S. facilities away from landfills by 2020 — that means finding ways to recycle things like boxes, plastic wrapping and hangers used to ship products. In 2014, it diverted just 29% of that waste.

Gap / Via Gap Inc.

Critics often dismiss corporate responsibility reports out of retailers and commitments to using sustainable materials as little more than lip service, or say it's too little, too late.

But it's worth noting that such efforts are being made despite a deeply competitive environment for selling apparel and that shoppers are paying more attention to good corporate behavior than they used to.

Gap CEO Art Peck said as much in the report, as he mused about the bigger stories behind various products.

“Was a shirt or jacket sewn by someone who works in safe and fair conditions?” he wrote. “Was care taken to mitigate any potential environmental harm caused by the manufacturing process? Were the people whose lives were touched by the creation of a piece of clothing affected in a positive way?”

He continued: “I’m convinced that this part of the story matters – and will come to matter even more in the future. Products that are disconnected from people will leave people feeling, well, disconnected. And retail is nothing if it is not about emotion.”

BuzzFeed – Business

With “Project Nutshot,” Zenefits Plans To Hit Competition Where It Hurts

The confidential project would set up a rivalry between Zenefits, a Silicon Valley “unicorn,” and some of its partners in the world of business software.

Sergei Supinsky / AFP / Getty Images

A fight is brewing in the world of business software, with one of Silicon Valley's most highly-valued startups close to completing a secretive project that will send ripples through the industry.

The project's tongue-in-cheek nickname? “Nutshot.”

The startup, Zenefits, which has a $ 4.5 billion valuation after launching only in 2013, has made its name by offering free software to help small businesses manage their employees' benefits. But now Zenefits is developing a system for processing payrolls, setting up a possible rivalry with the payroll companies that currently are its partners, several people familiar with the matter have told BuzzFeed News.

The move by Zenefits appears to be a calculated effort to head off possible threats from two payroll companies in particular: ADP and — in a surprise twist — Zenpayroll, a much smaller startup that works closely with Zenefits. While Zenpayroll is ostensibly a Zenefits ally, it is quietly preparing to introduce its own Zenefits-like product for managing employee benefits, some of the people familiar with the matter said.

These efforts by Zenefits and Zenpayroll have not previously been disclosed.

The relationship between Zenefits and ADP soured this summer, in a public feud that encouraged the startup to work on its competing product. Nasdaq-listed ADP is a giant of the industry, valued at $ 36 billion and pulling in $ 10.9 billion in revenue from its 610,000 business customers in its most recent financial year.

In June, ADP cut off Zenefits' access to some of its data (for what it later said were security reasons); in response Zenefits cast itself as David to ADP's Goliath, publicly accusing the company, America's largest payroll processor, of trying to hurt a smaller player by spreading “fear, uncertainty and doubt about the new market entrant.”

ADP later sued Zenefits for defamation, a lawsuit that Zenefits asked a court to dismiss.

It was around the time the ADP fight became public that Parker Conrad, the Zenefits CEO and co-founder, announced the payroll initiative to employees, the people familiar with the matter said. In an all-hands meeting in June, he jokingly referred to it as Project Nutshot, apparently referring to hitting payroll companies where it hurts, some of the people said.


A Zenefits spokesperson, Kenneth Baer, told BuzzFeed News in an email, “When it comes to payroll generally, Zenefits has always and continues to believe that our small business clients should be able to choose who they use to run their payroll.” He added, “We have no comment on what you are reporting.”

A spokesperson for Zenpayroll, Hanna Johnson, said in an email that the company “doesn't comment on rumors or speculation.” An ADP spokesperson, Dick Wolfe, declined to comment.

While seemingly arcane, a move into payroll would be a significant shift for Zenefits. The company is fundamentally an insurance broker, selling health insurance policies to small businesses and then collecting recurring commissions from the insurance companies. Companies use its free software to manage insurance as well as other items, like commuter benefits or 401(k) plans.

While companies often access payroll through the Zenefits software, Zenefits doesn't actually do the work of processing payrolls (a job that requires passing muster with the IRS). Instead, it lets customers integrate the services of specialist payroll companies — Zenpayroll, etc. — into its systems.

Conrad has previously said the company would probably avoid becoming a payroll processor. In a post on the question-and-answer site Quora in December, Conrad said Zenefits would “likely never” offer a payroll product.

“We like connecting to other payroll systems rather than building our own,” Conrad said in the post. “This lets us be friends with all the different payroll companies, and these have been good partnerships for us & getting better all the time (payroll is also hard and complex and we'd rather build other things that don't have good existing solutions available today).”

Zenefits has a lot on its plate already. The company, which recently said it acquired more than 10,000 customers and hired more than 500 employees in under two years, has fielded a number of customer complaints over software glitches and other errors that in some cases left people without health insurance for a month or more after they had expected it, BuzzFeed News reported this summer.

According to our sources, the new payroll system has already been rolled out to some Zenefits employees for testing. It has yet to be offered broadly to customers.

Zenefits has kept the existence of Project Nutshot under wraps. According to one source, Conrad said developers working on it were holed up in the Courtyard Marriott hotel across the street from Zenefits' San Francisco offices.

While the ADP skirmish may have motivated the payroll project, it gained urgency as Zenefits learned Zenpayroll was studying a move into managing benefits, the people said. The planned timeline for Zenpayroll's move could not be determined.

Zenefits and Zenpayroll share several investors, including the actor Jared Leto and Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box, according to PitchBook, which tracks startup data. Another Zenpayroll investor is David Sacks, the co-founder of Yammer, who is now the chief operating officer of Zenefits.

View Entire List ›

BuzzFeed – Business

Watch In Real Time As 3.1 Million Humans Have Their Thanksgiving Plans Ruined (Again!)

2014 Edition! (h/t to last year’s post !)

Last year, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a winter storm barreled across the country, stranding thousands and leaving them bartering with a higher power for WiFi in an over-crowded, turkey-less airport. Oh, and it's happening again this year.

That's right, roughly three million air travelers will be hurtling through the skies this holiday week, with a hefty portion making their way today, as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions brace a winter storm. And that means flight delays.

But, as we showed you last year, there's one small bit of entertainment to come out of all of this. Using Misery Map, a real-time weather and flight data visualization by the live flight tracking site Flight Aware, you can watch the delays pile up airport by airport in a neat, somewhat dizzying animation. Perfect for weather nerds, aviation aficionados, and run-of-the-mill sick and twisted schadenfreude.

So relax, stake out your spot on the floor in the terminal next to that inexplicably-placed lone outlet by the jet bridge and marvel. And please, please, please travel safe!


BuzzFeed – Tech