It is sometimes thought that for a company to "go green," they must spend some green, particularly in regards to conservation and sustainability. While it is true that most environmentally friendly projects come with an upfront cost, the overall return on investment is always worth the bill. In addition, Levi Strauss has developed a conservation formula that not only saves them money on energy and water consumption, but actually rewards their suppliers sustainability efforts by lowering interest rates on trade financing when green measures are taken within their facilities. Levi's has proved that one company's sustainability focus can trickle down to countless others, multiplying the effect of their efforts immeasurably.
Levi Strauss has been around for over 150 years; founded with the mantra "profits with principles," Levi's has always been proud of its social and sustainability ethics. In addition to creating the industry's first ever wastewater quality guidelines, mandating worldwide sustainability requirements, the company assessed and drastically decreased their overall water consumption. Cotton takes a tremendous amount of water to grow, using over 2,000 gallons of water to produce enough cotton to create only a single pair of jeans. As if that wasn't enough, even more water is projected to be used in washing that single pair of jeans throughout their lifetime.
In order to propel water conservation, Levi's began promoting sustainable cotton production by aiding in the foundation of the Better Cotton Initiative. With it, the Better Cotton Standard System was created, developing a holistic method of sustainable cotton farming, focusing on environmental, social, and economic factors. Simultaneously, Levi's made changes in water usage within their denim production, creating a "Water<Less" jean. This special production process reduces 96% of water used in the finishing process. Since starting the Water<Less jeans movement, 75 million garments have been produced using this process, saving over one billion gallons of water. As an added bonus, the sustainable process is saving the company money, saving Levi's an estimated $1.6 million in cost of goods sold.
On top of sustainability practices implemented in farming and production, Levi's has made a push for customers to better their environmental habits as well. In addition to including messaging on all product care tags stating, "wash less, wash in cold, line dry, and donate when no longer needed," the company has attempted to educate consumers on environmentally friendly care for their garments. Also posted on the company's website are "sustainability profiles," providing customers with environmental facts on various popular styles.
image courtesy GreenBiz.com, via Levi.com
Levi's Vice President of Sustainability, Michael Kobori explains how increasing sustainability also helps a business' bottom line, "My belief is — and it is true — sustainability should actually cost less, because, by definition, if you're more sustainable, you're consuming fewer resources, which means you have fewer input costs.” Adding as well, "Being known as a progressive brand also has helped carry Levi's through difficult business times — after all, consumers love a sustainable company."
Source: Mike Hower, GreenBiz.com