Why We Love the CEO Water Mandate: Helping Companies Stay Clean

Levi Strauss & Co.
January 22, 2014

It takes water to make blue jeans. And while that might not be a pressing concern to the average consumer, water use is a crucial part of the garment-making process — and using water efficiently can greatly benefit local communities and even lower the price of products for consumers.

That’s why LS&Co. is thrilled to work with the CEO Water Mandate, an initiative launched by the U.N. secretary-general that teams international companies with key stakeholders (including U.N. agencies, NGOs and others) to advance sustainable water solutions that benefit not just the environment but local communities and consumers, too. We’ve been active participants since the initiative launched in 2007.

At the heart of the CEO Water Mandate program is Collective Action, focused on getting local, regional, national and international entities on the same page in order to better manage water resources around the world. The benefit of a collaborative approach to sustainability is that it leverages individual efforts to create a big impact in the areas where action is needed most.

“If you’re one factory and you’re ultra efficient with water, you really can’t address water risk,” says Pacific Institute Program Director Jason Morrison, who serves as the CEO Water Mandate’s technical director. “You need others in the area to also be efficient — you need water resource managers and other government entities to be on board in order to balance long-term supply and demand. That means engaging externally, and it means working with others in a collective action context to find where there’s an alignment of interests.”

For LS&Co., encouraging water efficiency in our partner factories around the world is vital. Through the CEO Water Mandate, we helped improve water efficiency at a partner factory in Vietnam that produces more than 3.5 million pieces of clothing a year. Thanks to work there, the facility now uses 40 cubic meters— or roughly 10,570 gallons — less water per day.

But the CEO Water Mandate isn’t just happening behind company walls; the initiative is bolstering its online presence with the Water Action Hub, a matchmaking tool that helps companies connect with peers or other organizations via subject or region of interest.

“If a company is really interested in, say, water quality issues in China,” Morrison says, “or groundwater overdraft and more sustainable agriculture in India, then they can quickly find other groups — whether they be companies or other players — who are tackling, or wish to tackle, those issues.”

Here at LS&Co., we’re excited about the future of the CEO Water Mandate initiative. We can’t change the industry by ourselves. It takes a collective, collaborative effort.

“The ability of global brands to influence and encourage better water management practices is there,” Morrison says, “and I think we can do more in this area to come together and work on water.”