Last week, sustainability enthusiasts, including business leaders, investors, innovators and designers, came together at SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas, to collaborate on solutions across a variety of themes. Among the speakers at the three-day event were two Levi Strauss & Co. leaders — Anna Walker, senior director of global policy & advocacy, and Daniel Lee, executive director of the Levi Strauss Foundation.
Anna participated in a panel focused on re-thinking the supply chain. We had the pleasure of sitting in on her presentation to learn more about the initiatives LS&Co. is driving to make our supply chain more sustainable, particularly in cotton, fabrics and manufacturing.
A main theme woven throughout all of the supply chain initiatives Anna discussed is that collaboration and innovation are imperative for driving scale and impact.
“Sustainability must move beyond policing to collaboration and innovation,” she said. Anna described a few of the ways LS&Co. is working to drive this shift.
Cotton cultivation has a significant impact on water consumption over the lifetime of a pair for jeans. By forming alliances with other large cotton consumers, we’ve been able to leverage the power of our brands in support of more sustainably produced cotton. For example, we began 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!
Our efforts to reduce water in our denim finishing processes through our Water<Less process have resulted in more than one billion liters of water saved since 2011. Our ultimate goal is to have broader scale and scope across the apparel industry and beyond. We believe this can only be accomplished by partnering with others in the industry, and that’s why we’re proud to participate in groups like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the ILO’s Better Work Program.
“We want to provide sustainable change and not just one-off anecdotes,” Anna said.
Through our Worker Well-being initiative, LS&Co. collaborates with our suppliers to improve the lives of apparel workers in locations where our products are made. While we know educating workers on topics like financial literacy and family wellness creates amazing social returns, we must also make the case with vendors that investing in these program is good for business. And it certainly is. Worker Well-being programs improve productivity and reduce turnover (among other benefits), generating a $3 ROI for every dollar invested.
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