Our Lifecycle Assessment shows water is essential to our business: every step of the process to create a garment requires water, from the cotton fields to manufacturing facilities. And in an era of increasing water scarcity, we recognize that water is essential for communities, agriculture, and many industries besides apparel.
We have been reducing our water impact through an ever-growing assortment of activities, including:
Global Effluent Requirements
In 1994, we released our Global Effluent Requirements — the industry’s first discharge wastewater quality guidelines for our wet finishing laundries. Several years later, we scaled the requirements, making them mandatory for our worldwide suppliers. With these guidelines, we limit the contaminant levels allowed in suppliers’ wastewater from wet finishing and minimize the environmental impact to local water resources. In some countries our water quality guidelines are even more stringent than local regulations require. Recognizing that working with competitors could multiply the effectiveness of our efforts, we’ve also shared our guidelines with other apparel brands.
In 2011, the company began using Water<Less™ techniques that reduce the amount of water used in garment finishing by up to 96 percent for certain products. Water<Less achieves these water savings through simple, innovative adjustments to our wet finishing processes. For instance, simply removing water from stone washes or combining multiple processes can have a big impact.
Since launching the Levi’s® Water<Less™ process in 2011, Levi Strauss & Co. has saved more than 1 billion liters of water in the lifecycle of our products, including 30 million liters of fresh water saved through reuse or recycling. We continue to work toward using less water during manufacturing by expanding the Water<Less™ process to include more Levi’s® products, such as tops. By 2020, the Levi’s® brand aims to make 80 percent of its products using Water<Less™ techniques, up from 20 percent today.
In 2013, we developed the first Water Recycling/Reuse Standard in the apparel industry and we worked with one of our suppliers in China to set up a system that can produce high quality products using 100 percent recycled water. At the first approved production location, we made 100,000 pairs of Levi’s women jeans with recycled water and our goal is to scale this innovative process to many of our wet finishing suppliers and collections. For more explanation on the process, click on the infographic below, and read our recycled water blog post.
CEO Water Mandate
Levi Strauss & Co is one of the founding member signatories of the CEO Water Mandate. Established in July 2007, this unique public-private initiative, under the auspices of the United Nations Global Compact, assists companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. Our signature acknowledges that companies have a responsibility to make water-resources management a priority and to work with governments, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders to address the global water challenge. Our commitment to the CEO Water Mandate is ongoing. Read our progress report to learn about new steps we have taken to improve water management.
Better Cotton Initiative
More than 50 percent of the water associated with our products stems from activities in our supply chain – from cotton production to retail sales. To reduce the impact of cotton consumption, we are working with the Better Cotton Initiative® (BCI) to train farmers to grow cotton using less water. Based on the latest BCI harvest data available, in 2013, cotton farmers in China reduced their water use by 23 percent compared with farmers who were not using BCI techniques. LS&Co. plans to continue working with its global suppliers with the goal of sourcing approximately 75 percent Better Cotton by 2020, up from 6 percent today. Read more about our work with BCI.