Member Spotlight: LEVI STRAUSS & Co

Discover how an American icon benefits from the SAC

Levi Strauss & Co have been pioneers of sustainability initiatives for over two decades and helped to launch the SAC. They believe competition and collaboration must go hand in hand to push progress in the industry.

What are the biggest environmental and/or social challenges facing Levi Strauss & Co today?

On the social side we’re working on going from compliance on our labor standards and protecting workers’ rights, which we’ve been doing for the past 24 years, to actually improving the lives of the people who make our clothes. Our goal by 2020 is to make sure that we are improving the lives of workers in all of the factories that make 80% of our volume, which would affect about 140,000 people if we are successful. On the environmental side, the big challenge— or opportunity depending on how you see it—is how do we effectively communicate to our consumers around the world all of the environmental improvements that we are making in our products?

How does the Higg Index help Levi Strauss & Co meet its sustainability goals?

Our goal is to be the most sustainable apparel company in the world. The information that we get through the Index helps us towards that by helping us understand where we are and where we need to go. It shows us where we could do better or where there are areas of best practice we could achieve.

How has participating in Higg Index assessments helped to drive greater innovation in sustainability?

The motivation to answer The Higg’s higher-level questions helped us to reach beyond the basic-level, “low hanging fruit” improvements. It encourages us to implement state-of-the-art initiatives with a longer-term value. For example, we looked at recovering more value from wastewater treatment plants. At one of our zero-discharge plants, we innovated a process of recovering salt from the reverse osmosis process, then putting it back into the manufacturing process. It’s an innovation that we can now share with our peers in the SAC.

Have your Higg assessments helped drive the company’s sustainability initiatives?

We have been working on our sustainability initiatives like Water<Less since before the Higg existed. What the Higg Index does is to give visibility into what others are doing; it delivers a great comparative perspective relative to other brands and retailers out there. For our vendors, Higg delivers a great comparative perspective relative to other supply chain partners. The SAC has been able to do something that others have not, which is to bring in the supplier voice very significantly, and that is something that we definitely appreciate and value.

How else does belonging to the SAC help companies make change at the broader, systemic level?

One of the great things about the SAC is its forums, where members get together and share insights. At these forums, there is a tremendous openness with vendors and colleagues, and one of the main things we do is really share our innovations and best practices. This sharing is continually happening. The other key is that the visibility and transparency that the Higg Index provides spurs all of us to do better; it drives a healthy competitiveness around sustainability performance. My hope is that by raising standards in the industry it will set us all on the path to actually creating a Race to the Top, as far as labor, environmental and overall sustainability standards are concerned.

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Michael Kobori is Vice President of Sustainability. He leads the development of Levi Strauss & Co.’s environmental vision and strategy, its efforts to collaborate with other brands on sustainability, and extend its standards throughout the supply chain, including mills and sundry suppliers. Levi Strauss & Co is a founding member of the SAC.

Learn more about Levis at levis.com

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