Once the cotton leaves the fields, it is spun and made into fabric by mills around the world. We generally do not purchase fabric directly from the mills, but we have taken important steps toward partnering with them in our drive toward sustainability.
In 1991, we created our Terms of Engagement a first for the apparel industry, that details what we require of our business partners in practices pertaining to everything from worker rights to the environment. We have been working to extend those manufacturing guidelines farther in our supply to the mills that create the fabric for our products. We are founding members of the Business for Social Responsibility Apparel Mills and Sundries Working Group, established to improve working conditions in fabric mills and sundry/component parts suppliers.
We have been pleased to find that many of our fabric mill suppliers are already focused on sustainability. For example, one of our largest mill suppliers, in Mexico, operates one of the world’s largest privately owned waste water treatment plants. This facility has state-of-the art technology that enables it to recycle approximately 75% of its water and direct it to other production processes, rest rooms and landscape irrigation.
We are one of six apparel companies working with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on a pioneering initiative to reduce the environmental impact of textile mills in China. As part of the NRDC’s Responsible Sourcing Initiative, so far five mills have reduced their water, energy and chemical use, and the NRDC has developed a guide to sustainable practices that will be used by other mills worldwide.
Levi Strauss & Co. has been a leading partner to NRDC’s Responsible Sourcing Initiative in China and Bangladesh. By working together we will improve sustainability and energy efficiency throughout fabric mills and dye houses.