Blue Jeans Going Green……Levi Strauss making strides in sustainability.

Iconic denim brand Levi Strauss first produced their jeans in 1873, the tour de force of two inventive immigrants, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis.  The company is a global giant in the denim and jeans sector.

The manufacture of denim clothing on such a vast, global scale has far-reaching environmental consequences and there has been increasing pressure for denim producers to clean up their act.  

Levi’s have been on a mission to adopt more environmentally-friendly processes with their operations and supply chains.  The company is very aware of the environmental impact of denim production.

On average 7,000 litres of water are required to make each pair of jeans.  Growing cotton uses pesticides that jeopardise biodiversity and destabilises natural eco-systems. Then there are the numerous chemicals used in the manufacturing processes from dye and dye fixatives, oxidising and reducing agents, enzymes and bleaches.

We want to share these breakthrough innovations with everyone so that the industry gets better and we help to change the unsustainable system that exists out there

Michael Kobori, Vice President of Social & Environmental Sustainability, Levi Strauss & Co

Over the years, Levi Strauss & Co have been rolling out a number of sustainability initiatives, including plans to eliminate thousands of chemical formulations from their supply chain.  In 2018, the company announced Project F.L.X. (Product: Future-Led Execution) a transformative new process for jeans finishing that will result in a more sustainable supply chain and a cleaner jean.  

F.L.X. Levi Strauss has committed to a goal that by 2020, ZERO HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS will be discharged in manufacturing processes.

In addressing water consumption, the company’s designers have come up with a new, innovative way to get the denim finishes the brand is loved for, using a lot less water.  They say they’ve saved over 3 billion litres of water and recycled 2 billion litres so far, and that they can reduce up to 96% of water normally used in denim finishing.

Levi’s is a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative and is one of the companies catalysing a revolution that aims to make cotton more sustainable.  1.4 million Better Cotton farmers use on average 11% less water, 12% less pesticides and 16% less synthetic fertilisers.  By 2020, Levi’s aim to use 100% sustainable cotton made up of 95% Better Cotton, plus a mix of organic and recycled cotton.

One of the most important issues Levi’s explains on their website is the health and well-being of their apparel workers across their supply chain.  At the end of 2018, the company had helped 193,000 of their workers in 17 different countries with financial empowerment, health and well-being, equality and acceptance. By 2020, their goal is to reach 200,000 workers globally.

In 2019, Levi’s is taking on one of its most aspiring plans to date, with a target to cut carbon emissions across its supply chain by 40% by 2025.  This goal applies to the manufacturers making its products and its fabric mils, while its owned and operated facilities such as stores, offices and distribution centre are tasked with a reduction of 90% in carbon emissions and 100% renewable energy rate.

Michael Kobori, Vice President of Social and Environmental Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co explains, “At this point, that is the most aggressive target in the industry, we believe, in terms of both the magnitude and the timeframe.”

“For all the sustainable innovations we have – like the Water<Less finishing techniques, the jeans production process, our programme on worker wellbeing – we open-source all of our lessons and information. That’s our policy.  We want to share these breakthrough innovations with everyone so that the industry gets better and we help to change the unsustainable system that exists out there,” says Kobori.

For more information about Levi’s sustainability policy go here.