How Gap Inc.’s LP leader also helps preserve the planet

Keith White has a unique title and position. As the executive vice president of loss prevention and global sustainability at Gap Inc., the skills and knowledge acquired through a career in loss prevention help him look at the bigger picture — much bigger than just himself or the company. “I feel like there’s a better nexus between global sustainability and loss prevention,” he says: In one way he’s charged with the responsibility to protect the planet, in the other he’s working to preserve it. On this episode, White joins the Retail Gets Real team to discuss emerging trends in the loss prevention world and how the apparel retailer is taking corporate social responsibility to the next level.

White sees three emerging trends in LP. First, active shooter and other emergency incidents are a growing threat. He stresses the importance of proper training for retail stores, team members, corporate headquarters and everyone on the supply chain so they are prepared to respond appropriately in emergency incidents. The opioid epidemic is “driving people who are educated and have access to wealth to make decisions or to do things that they typically wouldn't do,” White says, “whether it's shoplifting behavior or it's violent behavior.” He urges those in loss prevention to understand the effect the drug has on their businesses.

“If you’re singularly focused on just LP, and you're really good at it, you just might be at risk.”

Keith White, Gap Inc.

And he sees a rise in a lack of civility; the behavior of customers, and even employees in some cases, can get out of hand when they feel offended. “It just takes the slightest thing to set people off,” he says. Store employees must be trained to deal with escalated customer behaviors.  

Beyond protecting the enterprise, White has a message for those in loss prevention: “If you’re singularly focused on just LP, and you're really good at it, you just might be at risk,” he says, encouraging LP employees to be interested in topics beyond the field. “You don’t want to be that person where they only see you as being one dimensional.” At Gap, White took on more corporate projects including business continuity planning, which allowed him to hone the skills that opened the door to bigger projects.

Among those projects are Gap’s Women in Water program in India, a campaign that helps women in rural areas get water filters and pipe in clean water to their properties; 84 percent of the population in India does not have direct access to clean water. “They’re actually life-changing events for the women who are recipients,” he says.

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In terms of global sustainability, White’s team is looking at renewable energy, the use of water and sourcing sustainable cotton. The company has invested in windmills to generate energy to offset the Gap Inc.’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gases. They’re also working with factories and mills to ensure sustainability programs are in place to manage water usage and runoff, and reusing and reducing water.

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