W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc., and its subsidiaries (Gore) comprise a uniquely creative, technology-driven Enterprise focused on discovery and product innovation. Gore has served a variety of global markets for over 60 years and has thrived by providing its customers with high-value products that enhance the quality of life. We have offices in more than 25 countries, with research and manufacturing operations in the U.S., Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, China and Japan. Gore has three product Divisions: Fabrics, Medical Products and Performance Solutions. By using proprietary technologies, Gore has created numerous products for fabric laminates; medical implants; and cable, filtration, sealant, membrane, venting and fiber technologies for diverse industries. Gore has more than 12,000 employees (called Associates) worldwide, who are also part owners of the Enterprise through the stock ownership plan. Associates take great pride in being part of a strong global Enterprise and in the broad contributions we make to society.
This document provides information regarding Gore’s business practices and how we address the goals set forth in the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 and the U.K. Modern Slavery Act of 2015.
At Gore, we are collectively committed to fostering a safe and healthy work environment where diverse teams of Associates collaborate to drive innovation, high performance, and responsibly direct their activities to achieve exceptional business results. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our number one priority has been the health and wellbeing of our Associates and the communities in which we operate, while also keeping our business running for essential businesses globally. While we closed our offices, in-line with the relevant Government guidelines in 2021, our manufacturing facilities remained open. However, we introduced changes in working practices to minimize the risks and to protect the wellbeing of our manufacturing Associates. As global citizens, we tried to do our part in the fight against COVID-19 by contributing our time, tools and talent.
For Gore, sustainability means that the value of our innovations is greater than the environmental and social impacts of our products and operations. As such, we fully support efforts to eliminate forced labor and human trafficking in our value chains. Aligned with our internal guidelines such as the Gore’s Associates’ Standards of Ethical Conduct, Gore Associates are expected to demonstrate integrity in all relationships, including when dealing with suppliers, customers, stakeholders, and other Gore Associates. We have a dedicated Integrity Helpline for the reporting of any violations of these standards or any applicable law, regulation or company policy.
Gore does not routinely pursue independent verification in regions where the strength of legal standards indicates the absence of issues related to forced labor or human trafficking. Where we are alerted of potential high risks, however, Gore has introduced further measures to protect workers and ensure transparency. In accordance with our sustainability aspirations and Enterprise values, we are continuously improving our due diligence activities based on the potential risk for forced labor and other human rights issues in our supply chain.
In an effort to get a better handle on such potential risks, in 2021, we conducted a preliminary human rights risk assessment with a reputable supply chain management consultancy. The assessment utilized historic data on a comprehensive set of risk factors relevant to companies in similar industries and locations. It involved almost 1600 entities, including our regular direct suppliers and own operations and covered, among other human rights topics, child labor, migrant labor and modern slavery. The average human rights risk exposure was relatively low owing mainly to the fact that most of the suppliers are located in the U.S. and Western Europe, where there is typically low risk of violation, particularly with respect to forced and child labor. (Please see our Sustainability Update for more information on the topic.) However, we recognize that conditions may vary significantly from one facility to another, even in the same country, and that the environment might change rapidly in the same facility. With this caveat in mind, this first assessment has helped us identify suppliers for whom additional evaluation is planned, for example, through use of a self-assessment survey. We will implement risk assessments on a regular basis and exercise further due diligence, where needed.
The U.S. Department of Labor “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor,” notes that garments, textiles and footwear are at-risk sectors. Gore has addressed this risk by adopting Gore Guidelines on Social Responsibility (GSR). These guidelines set forth our expectations regarding fair labor requirements, healthy and safe working environments, compliance with legal and environmental regulations, and other topics, including prohibition of forced labor and child labor. Gore expects its suppliers, business partners, distributors, and any other representatives in these at-risk sectors to maintain this same level of social responsibility.
Most finished apparel and footwear products made with Gore fabrics are placed on the market by our customers, many of which have programs in place to address forced labor and human trafficking. Gore assists these customers with due diligence over their own and supplier manufacturing facilities to prevent any zero-tolerance issues.
Gore is a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition which developed the Higg Index to drive transparency of fair labor conditions within the value chain. The Gore Fabrics Division is an active user of the Higg Index for assessing and sharing sustainability performance of our manufacturing units. In 2018, the Higg Index rolled out the Higg Facility Social & Labor Module, a comprehensive tool designed to assess labor practices, including forced and child labor. Since 2019, the Fabrics Division has been using this tool for assessment and independent, third-party verification of the social compliance performance of our own manufacturing facilities. The results are available on the Higg Portal for our customers to review. We encourage our suppliers and business partners to use the Higg Index to assess their performance on fair working conditions. Since 2014, Gore Fabrics has been reporting on its various sustainability initiatives in the form of annual Responsibility Updates.
Our own finished apparel business GOREWEAR has been affiliated with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) since 2012, adopting that organization’s Workplace Code of Conduct for social compliance in garment manufacture. This requires that GOREWEAR’s supplier facilities conduct business in alignment with the FLA Code of Conduct, which we monitor through third party audits against the FLA Compliance Benchmarks. Additionally, independent social audit spot checks are performed by the FLA with results made public on the organization’s website. In 2017, GOREWEAR earned FLA accreditation, the organization’s highest recognition for socially responsible sourcing. In September 2019, SITKA® Gear, another direct-to-consumer brand of Gore, also joined the FLA. Also in 2019, in an effort to combat forced labor, GOREWEAR and SITKA® Gear joined the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and FLA's Industry Commitment to Responsible Recruitment which calls on brands to uphold certain standards when employing or working with supply chain partners who employ migrant employees and to publicly report on their efforts. GOREWEAR and SITKA® Gear report to AAFA and FLA on the steps taken to implement the pledge.
Another industry effort we have joined is the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI). RMI, which was founded to support companies from a range of industries in addressing responsible mineral sourcing issues in their supply chains, including modern slavery in mining, is especially relevant to our Performance Solutions Division.
Gore strives to be fair to everyone with whom we do business. We value fair labor practices; we continue to review our Enterprise operations for risks of modern slavery and human trafficking as well as other human rights violations and commit to mitigating those risks wherever we find them. In this spirit of continuous improvement, we are preparing to roll out a Supplier Code of Conduct strategically in our supply chain to strengthen alignment on these key topics. We are also in the process of establishing a Human Rights Policy to demonstrate our commitments in this area. We are looking forward to reporting on these and other efforts in our next annual statement.
[This statement was approved by the Board of Directors of W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc., on Sep 27, 2022.]
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