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Live From PSFK CONFERENCE SAN FRANCISCO: Erik Joule Of Levi Strauss & Co.

SVP of Levi's Merchanding, Design and Licensning Team discussed his efforts to produce more sustainable clothing.

Kat Popiel
Kat Popiel on October 7, 2011. @mamakitten

As SVP of Levi’s Merchandising, Design and Licensing team, Erik is tasked with leading the brand’s global strategy initiative on sustainability.  Focused to reconnect the consumer with Levi’s heritage through a 360-integrated approach, his efforts aim to provide a holistic interaction of the brand through touch points and channels.  In addition, Levis Water<Less brand seeks to educate consumers that sustainability comes through the smallest of actions.

Erik connects his personal ambitions for social change with Levis Strauss’ 300 year old Profits and Principles belief that business has an opportunity to create profit but also impact social change.

Only 1% of the world’s water is drinkable.  Water impacts three stages of the denim relationship: post-consumer use (washing jeans at home), the manufacturing process (45 liters of water is used to make a pair of jeans) and the use of cotton (a highly water intensive crop).  Considering these three elements Erik and his team seek to continuously explore how to alter the process of reducing water usage in their product development. Previous production of one pair of jeans used up 42 liters of water.

“All I know is that I know nothing.” – Socrates.

Erik transcends this line of thinking saying, ‘If you approach your life thinking that what lies ahead is full of possibilities and opportunity then things will change.  Experience is the foe of innovation.’  Today Levis has shifted 60 million pairs of jeans and saved 156 million liters of water.  This success has caused the brand to assess its entire manufacturing process including energy usage.  The Levi’s Water<less brand has managed to reduce this wastage by only utilizing 1.5 liters per pair.

Erik explains that a blanket action to apply these efforts cannot occur across all sub-brands in Levis as this would alter the design of the product.  In blending Profit and Principle Levis will continue to explore different methods and techniques.  In order to bring the consumer designs they, the brand needs to maintain the look and feel of their product in conjunctionl to their sustainability efforts in order to truly make progress.

Levi Strauss & Co.

Erik Joule

Thinking...