A Quick Q&A with LS&Co.’s Liz O’Neill

Levi Strauss & Co.
December 14, 2016

Liz O’Neill is the newest member of Levi Strauss & Co.’s worldwide leadership team, serving as the senior vice president and chief supply chain officer, a role she earned based on her achievements over the last few years with the company.
A huge proponent of our sustainability initiatives like the Worker Well-being program, Liz has been a critical contributor to our supply chain accomplishments. She is also a member of the Levi Strauss Foundation Board of Directors.
We sat down with Liz for a quick Q&A to gain insight into what she brings to her new role as well as what she hopes to take away from the new position.
UNZIPPED: Sustainability has become such a buzzword these days within the industry – how are you hoping to really impact this aspect of the business through your work?
LIZ:  Michael Kobori [vice president of Sustainability for LS&Co.] and I have worked closely for the last few years, and both of us agree that a partnership between sustainability and sourcing teams is incredibly important.   … I definitely come at sustainability with a perspective around the importance of scalability, if you want to really make a difference you have to be able to scale your ideas. It’s not enough to have small ideas that can only make a small impact — if they’re not fundamentally scalable at an industrial level, the overall impact will likely be smaller.
We’re also planning to expand Worker Well-being program so that by 2020, 80 percent of our products are produced by suppliers with this program in place. And, we’re continuing to make progress towards our goals on water — water usage, water effluent discharge and water quality. But we’re really trying to move toward a closed-loop environment with water… more recycling and reusing along with ensuring we are meeting our effluent standards.
UNZIPPED: How has your previous work prepared you for this new role?
LIZ:  Product development and sourcing has been my functional expertise for the last 15 years. But I’ve always been interested in working closely with sustainability teams. In previous roles, I collaborated with Sustainability on developing sustainable purchasing practices as well as vendor terms of engagement.  I’ve always felt it was important to foster a close connection between the two groups (sourcing & sustainability).
UNZIPPED: What are you most excited about in terms of this new leader position?
LIZ: I love being in a position where I can see how all the various interdependent parts are working and try to figure out how we can be more effective, more efficient and really drive the right business results as a group. For me it’s about getting us all pulling in the same direction.
UNZIPPED: What’s your Levi’s® story?
LIZ: It’s kind of ironic, but my mother would never let my sister and I wear jeans. I grew up riding horses, so I was only allowed to wear jeans to the barn, but I was never allowed to wear them to school.  And I went to school in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Everybody was wearing jeans and everybody was wearing Levi’s®! So of course my Levi’s® were always stuffed in my backpack until I got to school and then I put them on.
UNZIPPED: Final thoughts?
LIZ: I am really excited for 2017.  I feel like we’re really moving in the right direction and I’m excited to be on the worldwide leadership team where I’ll get to see all the great things that are coming in the new year.