Why We Volunteer: Up Close with Our Program in Sri Lanka

Levi Strauss & Co.
October 27, 2017

Levi Strauss & Co. encourages employees to take five hours a month of paid time to volunteer in their communities. Here’s how one employee, Levi Leslie, uses that time.

Standing in a factory the size of a football stadium alongside colleagues from around world, Levi Leslie felt humbled.

“There were 40 people on a single line working on one T-shirt, each with a unique skill set – sewing,  ironing,  boxing,  quality control,” Levi said. “I didn’t know how many hands touched a T-shirt. It was really eye-opening.”

Levi is a facilities manager at LS&Co.’s finance office in Eugene, Oregon. He had the opportunity to take part in the LS&Co. Service Corps, a volunteer immersion program for a select group of global employees to see our Worker Well-being initiative in action, and to experience what life is like for apparel workers both inside and outside of the factory walls. The program is open to employees who have shown an on-going commitment to volunteering in their hometown community.

The son of a youth minister, Levi has been volunteering since high school. He applied to be part of the LS&Co. Service Corps and was selected to travel on a seven-day trip to Sri Lanka with nine other colleagues. Other Service Corps trips have included factory visits to Mexico, Cambodia, and Haiti.

While in Sri Lanka, Service Corps participants had the opportunity to see how LS&Co.’s profits through principles approach to business fuels our commitment to improving the lives of the people who make our products. They visited factories and heard directly from workers about how they are utilizing our Worker Well-being program.

Worker Well-being supports factory workers via initiatives that focus on financial empowerment, health and family well-being, equality and acceptance. Workers are regularly surveyed so that the program can be adapted to their needs, something Levi witnessed first-hand. “Management is listening to the workforce,” he said.

One worker invited the group into the living space she shares with her husband, baby, and her parents. The Worker Well-being program is teaching them how to save for a house of their own.

“It was a very humbling and intimate experience, to be invited into someone’s home,” Levi said. “Over here, you don’t always think of the supply chain. I always knew we did good work globally. But to go see that good work and take in that experience with other colleagues,  magnified the pride I have for this company.”

These days, Levi continues to utilize his five volunteer hours a month as a basketball coach at local schools and in his 8-year-old daughter’s classroom. He plans on teaching the Project Wet, which he learned on the ground in Sri Lanka, at her school as well as at the LS&Co. Eugene office.

“I’ve talked to people hesitant about applying to Service Corps, or hesitant about using their five hours,” Levi said. “My advice is, go for it. It’s worth it. Even a little effort can make a big difference.”