Levi’s is not shy about sharing the successes it has had on the sustainability and corporate social responsibility front. And perhaps they do not need to be. The company has had a long history of blending profits and progress. Fifty years ago, when the company purchased a factory in Blackstone, Virginia, its owners, the Haas family, demanded its workforce no longer be segregated by race. To that end the Haas name has been a part of numerous charitable foundations. And on the sustainability and corporate social responsibility fronts, Levi’s has led in one way with its Water<Less campaign. It’s ranked highly in the eyes of GoodGuide and has pushed innovation with last year’s contest to reinvent the clothesline and grants to provide clean water worldwide.
At PSFK’s San Francisco conference, Erik Joule, Levi’s senior vice president of design and licensing, explained his path and that of the company towards ramping up water efficiency throughout its operations. As is the case with many companies looking for greater resource efficiency throughout their supply chain, Joule and Levi’s realized that so much of what they did was out of habit and just doing the same thing over and over again.
“Experience,” Joule told the audience, “is the foe of innovation.”
As is the case with most textiles, the manufacture of a pair of blue jeans is a water intensive process. The journey starts with growing cotton, a crop that demands vast sums of water; next, the actual manufacture of a pair of jeans, which takes anywhere from 40 to 50 gallons; and finally, after its purchase, a pair of jeans will require even more water. Therefore, Joule does not wash his jeans (“washing ruins them,” he told the audience). Tackling water consumption at the source, however, will take a while as moving towards more sustainably-grown cotton requires a massive shift in the supply chain.
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Written by Leon Kaye. Originally posted on Triple Pundit. Republished with kind permission.