ponsible business practices: product sourcing & sustainability at Levi Strauss and Co.
Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) has been addressing corporate citizenship by focusing on complex issues. LS&Co. is one of the first major companies to commit to eradicating HIV/ AIDS, launching an ethical code of conduct for suppliers and engaging in public policy to drive social change.
Responsible sourcing and sustainability are two cornerstones of LS&Co.’s citizenship work (in addition to HIV/AIDS, diversity, community involvement and Levi Strauss Foundation grant- making).
A. Responsible product sourcing
LS&Co. strives to take a leadership role in establishing product sourcing practices that ensure every person involved in making its products is treated with dignity and respect.
In 1991, LS&Co. became the first multinational company to establish a comprehensive ethical code of conduct for its contractors. Since then, this has evolved with the company’s approach into the Global Sourcing and Operations Guidelines to address issues at three levels— the factory, community and government.
At the factory level, LS&Co.’s Terms of Engagement programme (TOE) covers specific business practices that its suppliers need to meet. Highlights relating to the TOE include:
Trained assessors monitor suppliers in different countries and ensure compliance of the manufacturing facility and processes. Suppliers are assessed by LS&Co.’s staff and representatives from external agencies (such as NGOs). The external monitors need to pass LS&Co.’s qualification programme to perform TOE assessments.
LS&Co. requires suppliers to be compliant in 13 areas (i.e., Ethical standards, Legal requirements, Environmental requirements, Community involvement, Child labour, Prison and Forced labour, Working hours, Wages and benefits, Freedom of association, Disciplinary practices, Discrimination, Employment standards, Health & Safety).
LS&Co. made its standards publicly available through www.levistrauss.com.
Building on these, the company published its list of suppliers on its website, reflecting its openness to collaborating with other brands to efficiently help shared contractors raise their standards. (Suppliers are assessed every year and the list is updated every six months, as necessary.)
At the community level, LS&Co.’s philanthropy and the Levi Strauss Foundation grant- making focus on strengthening workers’ rights and improving working and living conditions in communities where the company’s products are made. Examples of workers’ rights programme include:
The Asia Foundation project—Since 1999, the project has been educating migrant women workers in China on their workplace rights and providing financial literacy as well as basic healthcare.
Development Initiative for Social Causes (DISC), in 2004-05, to improve working conditions, labor standards and the status of female garment workers in Bangalore through worker and supervisory training on labor and human rights and health.
A 2004 grant to SHEVA, a Bangladesh-based NGO to fund the education of factory workers on local labor laws, codes of conduct and improved management systems, including the institution of employee grievance procedure.
Case in point 11 - Res
LS&Co. is focused on responsible sourcing and sustainability
Factors for success
Partnerships with other companies and organisations to develop the next generation global standards and goals
Leadership involvement with organisations enables LS&Co. to share ideas, effect change and learn from others
(Source: Primary research interview with Levi Strauss & Co.)
Strategic Issues for Retail CEOs* : Perspectives on Operating in India’s Retail Sector
. At the government level, the company works closely with governments, NGOs, industry
associates and other stakeholders to strengthen labor laws in countries where it has a business presence. LS&Co. conducts thorough assessments of all countries where it has or is considering placing production to help make responsible sourcing decisions. Its trade/labour policy and advocacy to drive fair employment practices, policies and laws augment its workers’ rights programme.