Levi Strauss & Co. is pioneering practices to reduce the use of energy, water, chemicals and other materials in the apparel industry. We can’t do this alone, but by taking innovative actions and partnering with others throughout the industry, we can help drive change and reduce our overall environmental impact.
At Levi Strauss & Company, our goal is to become the world’s most sustainable apparel company by transforming the way we do business.
Water is critical to our business, the planet and people around the globe. We know that water is the most precious resource we have, and that our planet’s usable water is becoming increasingly scarce. Today, one in ten people in the world do not have access to clean water and one in every three people do not have access to a proper toilet. As a society, we’re continuing to draw from the planet’s limited groundwater supply at record rates – faster than it can be replenished.
Apparel production depends heavily on water availability—from growing cotton to manufacturing to consumer care at home. For decades we have worked to reduce our water impact, change how the industry uses and thinks about water and educate consumers about the important role they play.
But we recognize that it is not enough for us to be good stewards of Earth’s most precious resource. It is our responsibility as a leading apparel company to be a catalyst for change – within and beyond our industry. We’re committed more than ever to reducing water use and ensuring that the water we do use is returned to the environment even cleaner than we found it.
To make this vision a reality, LS&Co. has created a holistic, integrated approach focused on the three areas we can have the most impact: the planet, production and people.
We know these are the areas where we can make the greatest impact around water because we’ve studied it. In 2007 and again in 2015, we conducted the industry’s first comprehensive lifecycle assessment of our core products with a focus on a pair of Levi’s® 501 jeans. The result? A pair of 501® jeans uses 3,781 liters of water in its full lifecycle – from growing cotton, through manufacturing, consumer care at home and end of life disposal. And these are the areas we are focused on when it comes to creating meaningful and lasting change.
Water + the Planet
It can’t be ignored that apparel production uses a significant amount of water. Through our LCA, we discovered that nearly 70 percent of the water used during the lifecycle of a pair of jeans is used solely for cotton agriculture. Knowing that 95 percent of LS&Co. products are cotton-based, this meant re-evaluating the sustainability of our cotton supply and finding new solutions to address this raw material’s impact—from irrigation and runoff to pesticides and farmer education.
The solution: the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) – an initiative that LS&Co. co-founded in 2005 to fundamentally change how one of the world’s largest commodities is grown. BCI focuses on decreasing the environmental impact of cotton, improving labor standards and increasing the economic livelihood for farmers. The program also requires farmers to use water efficiently and care for its availability. BCI farmers use up to 18 percent less water than non-BCI farmers in comparable locations.
In 2015, we sourced 12 percent of our total cotton through BCI – up from 7 percent in 2014. By 2020, our goal is to use 100 percent sustainable cotton through sources such as Better Cotton and recycled cotton, significantly reducing our total water footprint. We are asking other apparel companies to join BCI and source more sustainable cotton as an industry overall.
We’re also exploring innovative approaches to use recycled cotton in our garments. Jeans crafted with at least 15 percent recycled cotton save as much water as the entire manufacturing process consumes.
Cotton is grown in some of the most arid regions in the world. This is why we’re also looking beyond the factory walls to address the issues facing our world’s most strained water basins. We’re proud to be working with the World Wildlife Fund to assess our supply chain operations and identify hot-spot locations facing water pollution, scarcity and ecosystem damage. Based on these findings, we plan to raise awareness and implement solutions to reduce the water impact of apparel factories located in the water basins of some of the most high-risk areas, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mexico and China.
Water + Production
While manufacturing a pair of jeans only consumes nine percent of the water used in the jean’s entire lifecycle, it’s the area we control most directly and where we see a big opportunity to drive change in the apparel industry. We’re looking at all areas in our supply chain – from fabric mills to laundries – to identify ways to reduce our water use and eliminate the discharge of hazardous chemicals from our production.
To minimize water use in production overall, our designers challenged themselves to create the same great styles our consumers love with far less water. The result was a series of innovative finishing techniques we call Water<Less™, which can save up to 96% of the water in the denim finishing process. Since launching the Water<Less™ processes in 2011, we have saved more than 1 billion liters of water in the manufacturing of LS&Co. products. We’ve also saved 30 million liters of fresh water through the industry’s first Water Recycling and Reuse Standard, which we piloted with one of our vendors in China. We’re sharing these techniques with other vendors in hopes to see similar water savings.
Most recently, we’ve taken our commitment to reducing water use in the apparel industry a step further by making our water reduction standards and tools, including our Water<Less™ innovations, publicly available to others within and outside our industry, and encouraging other denim companies – large and small – to use them in their production.
By utilizing our Water<Less™ innovations, we believe the apparel industry can save at least 50 billion liters of water by 2020. Our goal is to increase the percentage of our own products made with Water<Less™ techniques to 80 percent by 2020.
Outside of product finishing, we’re working to extend our wastewater guidelines to textile mills in our supply chain to ensure they are focused on reducing their water impact. We’ve seen that many of our mills are already meeting our strict environmental standards, but there is more work to be done.
We’re also partnering with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as part of their Clean by Design program to reduce water, energy and chemical use at the textile mill level.
When it comes to hazardous chemicals, we were one of the first companies in our industry to establish a Restricted Substances List. In 2014 we launched the Restricted Substances Stewardship Program (RSSP), which takes this commitment a step further creating the foundation to eliminate priority substances from supplier’s production processes (including production for other brands) by supporting our product focused RSL with a Manufacturing RSL (MRSL). Through our RSL and RSSP, we have taken specific action to address the elimination of APEOs, PFCs (completely banned in 2015) and phthalates in our products and supply chain. And we are committed to doing our part to achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020 through our participation in the Joint Roadmap Towards Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC).
Water + People
Water is essential to our business and to every person who touches our products. Because of this, LS&Co. is addressing water at every step in the lifecycle.
Through our Worker Well-being initiative, we’ve identified Water Access, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) as a critical need for workers who make our products, their families and their communities. Through factory and community-based programs, we are helping to educate workers and their families about safe drinking water and hygiene – both within and outside the factory walls.
With between 60 and 75 million people employed in the apparel sector around the world, we believe that, if other companies implement and scale similar programs, we can improve the lives of over three million workers.
Since water is core to our business at all levels, LS&Co. has also prioritized educating corporate and retail employees about water conservation.
We partnered with the Project WET Foundation to develop a curriculum to increase awareness around the social and environmental impacts of apparel. We’re training our employees across the globe to become water conservation ambassadors and to share what they learn in the communities where they live and work. Through these trainings, LS&Co. employees and local communities will become educated about the impact their clothing has on the planet and how to change daily behavior to conserve water.
By 2020, our goal is for 100 percent of our company’s corporate employees to receive the Levi Strauss & Co. Project WET water education training.
And with consumers we’re working hard to educate them about reducing their impact through care labels, awareness campaigns including the “Are You Ready to Come Clean” consumer quiz and “Don’t Be a Drip” water education program as well as through ecommerce sales channels.
RELATED RESOURCES — WATER-
- 2014 – CEO Water Mandate Communication on Progress
- The Lifecycle of a Jean (2015 Lifecycle Assessment Study)
Other Materials & Documents
THE LIFECYCLE OF A JEAN
At Levi Strauss & Co, we’re focused on building sustainability into everything we do. To that end, we conducted the apparel industry’s first lifecycle assessment (LCA) study in 2007 to assess the full environmental impact of a core set of products from cradle to grave. The study found that the greatest water and energy impact was in two areas: cotton cultivation and consumer use.
Since then, we’ve made tremendous progress innovating around water reduction in denim manufacturing, including creation of the Water<LessTM process and implementing the apparel industry’s first Recycle/Reuse standard.
Levi Strauss & Co. has saved 1 billion liters of water since 2011 through our Water<LessTM process, which reduces the water used in garment finishing by up to 96 percent. We’ve also taken bold steps to reduce the environmental impact of our products in areas outside our direct control through our Care Tag for Our Planet initiative and by working with the Better Cotton Initiative® (BCI).
This year LS&Co. released a new global lifecycle assessment study, an update on the 2007 study that examined the environmental impact of our LS&Co. products. The new study analyzed the complete product lifecycle, probing deeper into the environmental impacts of cotton in key growing regions, apparel production and distribution in a range of locations, and consumer washing and drying habits in key markets.
The study shows that of the nearly 3,800 liters of water used throughout the lifetime of a pair of jeans, cotton cultivation (68%) and consumer use (23%) continue to have the most significant impact on water consumption. Consumer care is also responsible for the most significant energy use and climate impact, representing 37 percent of the 33.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide emitted during the lifecycle of a jean.
The new LCA expands on previous research to better understand the impact of cotton cultivation and includes data from the world’s primary cotton producing countries, including the United States, China, Brazil, India, Pakistan and Australia. It also analyzes consumer care data from new markets, including China, France and the United Kingdom, to understand the costs and benefits of differences in washing habits.
THE LIFECYCLE OF A PAIR OF LEVI’S® 501® JEANS — SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS
- Water Consumption: Nearly 3,800 liters of water are used to make a pair of jeans. Fiber production, predominantly cotton (68%), consumes the most water, followed by consumer care (23%).
- Climate Change: Of the 33.4 kg of carbon dioxide produced during the lifecycle of a pair of jeans, consumer care (37%) and fabric production (27%) generate the most significant climate change impact and energy use.
- Expanded Scope: By expanding our scope to include leading cotton-producing countries, we’ve seen the water consumption from cotton cultivation increase, since the amount of water used to grow cotton varies significantly across the world. Also, by including new consumer markets we’ve found that washing and drying habits vary by region.
- Impact: By wearing jeans 10 times before washing, American consumers can reduce their water and climate change impact by 77 percent, U.K. and French consumers by 75 percent and Chinese consumers by 61 percent.
- Current average washing frequency:
- In the U.S., consumers typically wear their jeans 2 times before washing them.
- In the U.K. and France, consumers typically wear their jeans 2.5 times before washing them.
- In China, consumers typically wear their jeans 4 times before washing them.
- Consumer jeans-washing habits vary by region:
- Americans use more water and energy to wash and dry their jeans than consumers in the other markets.
- Consumers in the U.K. and France mostly air dry their jeans and use more hot water than others.
- Consumers in China mostly wash in cold water and air dry.
For more details and findings, view our Lifecycle Assessment Study.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
- The Lifecycle of a Jean [Deck]
- Levi Strauss & Co. Reaches 1 Billion Liters of Water Saved Through Sustainability Initiatives [News Release]
- 1 Billion Liters Saved, New Lifecycle Assessment Study & Consumer Education Campaign [Fact Sheet]
- It’s Time to Come Clean [Infographic]
WHAT IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL LIFECYCLE ASSESSMENT?
A lifecycle assessment (LCA) is a systems-based, quantitative method for evaluating the environmental impact of a product. This tool is used to assess the stages and impact of a product’s entire life, from raw material extraction (cradle) to waste treatment (grave). LCAs focus on environmental impacts, and typically do not consider social or economic impacts.
Findings from LCA studies are used in multiple ways:
- Allow us focus on the most significant environmental impacts as we develop and evaluate sustainability programs and policies
- Inform product decisions to reduce the environmental impact from design and materials to manufacturing
- Support engagement with external stakeholders to reduce impacts of materials and consumer care
Ultimately, we want to allow for accurate and expedient comparison of product environmental performance — enabling significant reductions in environmental impact of all apparel products. In 2013, we became the first apparel company to publish a statistical method, E-valuate™, to compare products or product components. The paper includes a comparison of 26 denim fabrics with data collected from our mill suppliers. The E-valuate™ method was published in a scientific journal to allow for broad access across the apparel industry and beyond.
We also participated in developing an industry-wide standard for simplified apparel LCAs with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Through this research we’re able to share more information about the environmental impact of our products with both consumers and the factories that make our products — adding a whole new level of transparency. Consumers have more power to shop based on values, while suppliers gain the opportunity to continue partnering with us on ongoing improvements in environmental performance.
We’re focused on building sustainability into everything we do. In our scientific life cycle assessment of a pair of Levi’s® 501® jeans, we learned that 37 percent of the energy and 23 percent of the water used during the lifetime of a pair of Levi’s® 501® jeans occurs during the consumer-use phase.
This is huge and we know it. So in 2009, Levi Strauss & Co. and Goodwill® launched a U.S. partnership — “A Care Tag for Our Planet” — to spread the word that small changes in the way we care for our clothes can help reduce our climate change impact.
The Levi’s® and Dockers® brands now include relevant messaging on all global product care tags encouraging us to “Wash less, wash in cold, line dry, and donate when no longer needed.” Our aspiration is to help put a dent in the 1,100 liters of water and 60 kilowatt-hours it takes the average American consumer to wash and dry a pair of jeans.
In his Dirty Jeans Manifesto our CEO, Chip Bergh, shares a story about wearing a pair of jeans that had never been washed – and worn for over a year. This is just one example of how we are challenging convention and the mindset of washing clothing after only one or two wears. For years, denim aficionados have attested that not washing jeans makes them wearable longer.
Levi Strauss & Co. recognizes that the emission of carbon dioxide is a major contributor to global climate change. If left unchecked, large-scale climate change will have serious economic, social and environmental consequences for our business and the communities in which we operate.
After nearly three decades as a sustainability leader committed to environmental stewardship, we’re proud of the work Levi Strauss & Co. has done to address climate change. We have used our voice to advocate for strong climate policies, as well as taken significant action to reduce our climate impact within our owned-and-operated facilities and supply chain.
PUBLIC POLICY ADVOCACY
Through our partnership with the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, LS&Co. was a founding member of the advocacy coalition BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy), a cross-industry organization focused on making the business case to policymakers for advancing clean energy and addressing climate change. Since BICEP’s 2008 inception, we have been able to speak out with a united voice to address climate concerns.
In 2015, we were among one of the first business voices to express support for the Paris Climate Agreement. During those negotiations, our CEO Chip Bergh joined the heads of several global apparel companies in asking world leaders to sign a strong global climate deal. When President Trump stated his intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement last year, we stood with thousands of businesses, states, and mayors in joining the We Are Still In letter, reaffirming our continued support for climate action to meet the targets under the Paris Agreement.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN OWNED & OPERATED FACILITIES
We’ve paired our vocal advocacy with action to reduce carbon emissions in our direct operations and in our supply chain. Our 2020 climate goals for our owned and operated facilities are:
- OFFICES, RETAIL, AND DISTRIBUTION: 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020
- MANUFACTURING: 5 percent annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per product shipped from our owned and operated plants by 2020
- ALL LS&Co.: 20 percent of energy purchases from renewable sources by 2020
We are on track to exceed our climate goals in our owned-and-operated facilities. In 2016, we achieved a 24 percent reduction in emissions and are currently using 18 percent renewable energy. See more in our 2017 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Summary below.
SUPPLY CHAIN IMPACT
Among our areas of focus for reducing energy use are our large-scale distribution centers, which are responsible for about 40 percent of energy consumption within our owned and operated footprint. In 2015, one of our key distribution centers received LEED Platinum Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, rendering it the largest retrofitted LEED Platinum warehouse in the world. In addition, our remodeled headquarters building in San Francisco received LEED Gold Certification, highlighting the building’s high performance in multiple areas of green design and energy use.
Since 2008, we have annually reported our GHG inventory to the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP). Each inventory is verified by a third party in compliance with the WRI Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Revised Edition. See our past Greenhouse Gas Inventory reports and Carbon Disclosure Project reports in the Related Resources section below.
While we have demonstrated leadership through our efforts in our own operations, we are also aware that the apparel industry’s biggest climate impact is in the supply chain. Over the last several years we have piloted innovative programs aimed at reducing our environmental impact in the supply chain and are excited by the results and the opportunity to scale those programs.
We have partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on the Clean by Design Program, an initiative to reduce the environmental impact of textile mills in China. Currently, six textile mills in China that supply fabric to LS&Co. participated in this program, achieving a total savings of 57,465 tons of steam and 2.62 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year over the five-year period.
We are currently piloting the International Finance Corporation’s Partnership for Cleaner Textile (PaCT) program. They have worked with six of our manufacturers in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent and reduce energy use by 22 percent in less than one year. In addition to reducing their carbon footprint, these initiatives helped manufacturers save more than $1 million in operating costs. Given these promising results, our 2018 plan is to expand the PaCT program to more factories and to fabric mills, which have a larger greenhouse gas footprint than our contract manufacturing facilities.
Last September, we joined more than 300 global companies in committing to set science-based targets to reduce emissions across our entire value chain. We are aware of the challenge of tackling supply chain emissions, but we have never shied away from a challenge.
RELATED RESOURCES — CLIMATE CHANGE-
- 2017 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Summary (2016 Results)
- 2017 Carbon Disclosure Project (2016 Results)
- 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Summary (2015 Results)
- 2016 Carbon Disclosure Project (2015 Results)
- 2015 Greenhouse Gas Summary (2014 Results)
- 2015 Carbon Disclosure Project Report (2014 Results)
- 2014 Greenhouse Gas Summary (2013 Results)
- 2014 Carbon Disclosure Project Report (2013 Results)
- 2013 Greenhouse Gas Summary (2012 Results)
- 2013 Carbon Disclosure Project Report (2012 Results)
- 2012 Carbon Disclosure Project Report (2011 Results)
- 2011 Greenhouse Gas Summary (2010 Results)
- 2011 Carbon Disclosure Project Report (2010 Results)
- 2010 Greenhouse Gas Summary (2009 Results)
- 2010 Carbon Disclosure Project Report (2009 Results)
- The Lifecycle of a Jean (2015 Lifecycle Assessment Study)
Policies & Commitments
From pesticides and fertilizers used in cotton production to dyes in the manufacturing process, chemicals touch the clothes we produce. We were one of the first companies in our industry to establish a Restricted Substances List. And we are committed to doing our part to achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.
Our Restricted Substances List (RSL) identifies the chemicals we will not permit in our products or in the production process due to their potential impact on consumers, workers and the environment. The RSL provides up-to-date information to our business partners, including direct sources and licensees, on product compliance with international consumer products regulations, to the best of our knowledge.
Building on our RSL, Levi Strauss & Co. joined the Joint Roadmap Towards Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC), an apparel industry collaboration to drive systemic change with a goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020. Such collaboration mirrors our belief that this collaborative approach to chemicals management is the most effective way to achieve the scope and scale necessary to meet the goal of zero discharge in the apparel industry.
RELATED RESOURCES — CHEMICALS-
- Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Progress Update – 2018
- APEO Investigation Report
- Chemical Use and Discharge Facility Reports – May 2013
- Chemical Use & Discharge Facility Reports – December 2013
- Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Program 2015 Annual Report
- Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Program 2014 Annual Report
- Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Program 2013 Annual Report
- Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Program 2012 Annual Report
Policies & Commitments
- Commitment to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals
- Development of an Intrinsic Hazard Screening Methodology
- Levi Strauss & Co., Global Sourcing and Operating Guidelines
- Levi Strauss & Co. Greenpeace Detox Solutions Commitment
Other Materials & Documents
- UC Berkeley Haas Case Study – Green Chemistry
- Levi Strauss & Co. PFC Substitution Case Study
- Restricted Substances Stewardship Program – June 2015
- ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List 2015
- Restricted Substances List – English – 2017
- Steps to Develop Substitution Case Studies
- ZDHC Framework for the Prioritisation of Hazardous Chemicals Joint Roadmap Version 2 Milestone
Recycling & Reuse
While many consumers are familiar with recycling bottles, cans and paper, most still throw away clothing. Annually, Americans alone discard more than 28 billion pounds of unwanted clothing, shoes and other textiles. Charitable organizations and others collect roughly 15 percent of these items, while the remaining 85 percent — 24 billion pounds — end up in landfills We’re working to ensure that the raw materials from these items are put to a new use, so they can continue to reinvent themselves.
In 2015 we expanded our clothing recycling initiative in both our retail stores and through our ecommerce sites in the U.S.:
- Levi’s® Retail Stores: We rolled out clothing recycling to all U.S. to all Levi’s® mainline and outlet stores in the United States, in partnership with I:Collect (I:CO), an end-to-end solutions provider for reuse and recycling of apparel, footwear and other textiles. I:CO has best-in-class procedures for sorting clothing and shoes — wearable items are resold and re-worn, while other pieces are reused as products such as cleaning cloths, recycled into fibers for insulation and paddings or upcycled into new products.
- Levi.com & Dockers.com: We announced a new program in partnership with Goodwill that provides consumers an opportunity to donate used clothing and shoes by using a free shipping label available on the U.S. ecommerce sites for the Levi’s® and Dockers® brands. During the 2015 holiday season LS&Co. will support Goodwill’s mission of creating jobs by contributing $5 to Goodwill, up to $50,000 (with a guaranteed minimum of $25,000), for every box of donated clothing shipped. This innovative way to donate is supported by a tool called Give Back Box.
Expanding clothing and shoe recycling is the latest endeavor in LS&Co.’s broader sustainability goal of creating an infrastructure that supports a circular economy by 2020.
How to Participate:
1. Bring Your Clothing to a Levi’s Store
Drop unused items —any brand of clean, dry clothing or shoes — even non-Levi’s® items. into the collection box at your local Levi’s® store. Any consumer who brings an item of clothing to recycle will receive a voucher for 20 percent off a single, regular-priced Levi’s® item in-store at one of our participating retail stores. Your items will be sent to I:CO’s collection facilities, where they’ll be sorted and reused or recycled into new raw materials and products. Learn more about our partnership with I:CO.
We are expanding clothing recycling to additional Levi’s stores globally in 2016. Check back for updates.
2. Ship Your Clothing to Goodwill
To donate used clothing and shoes, print a free shipping label available on levi.com/goodwill and dockers.com/goodwill, fill a box, such as those from Levi.com and Dockers.com orders, with any brand of clean, dry clothing or shoes, affix the label and ship as usual. Donations will be send to the nearest participating Goodwill location. Shipping donations is free for consumers. Learn more about our partnership with Goodwill.
We hope that someday every piece of clothing we sell will have another life!