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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

ponsible business practices: product sourcing & sustainability at Levi Strauss and Co. B. Sustainability

The launch of LS&Co.’s ethical code of conduct two decades ago captured the company’s belief in sustainability. The code stated, among other things, that the company would only conduct business with partners who shared its commitment to the environment and conduct their businesses in line with that philosophy. LS&Co.’s long-term goal remains to be a zero- waste company and to build sustainability into all operations and processes.

LS&Co. assumed a product lifecycle assessment, a study of every input, cost, impact that went into the life cycle of its core products, from the cotton in the ground to the last time the pants are washed. The study took almost a year to complete and the most surprising finding was that the biggest environmental impact fell outside its supply chain control—namely, growing cotton and consumers’ washing and drying of its clothes.


Even though LS&Co. is a large cotton consumer, it uses less than half a percent of the world’s annual cotton crop. Nonetheless, it has been working to impact cotton growing practices at the farm level by building a sustainable cotton supply chain, creating alliances with businesses that use cotton and working with farmers to improve their growing methods. To that end, it partnered with other brands in the Better Cotton Initiative to promote sustainable cotton production. The goal is also to try to mobilise greater buying power in support of more sustainable cotton. LS&Co. has also collaborated with other companies, socially responsible investors, and NGOs to take a stand on how cotton is grown in Uzbekistan, where forced child labor is a major concern.

Helping shape sustainable consumer habits

Through its life cycle assessment, LS&Co. gained insights into washing and drying clothes and has started its consumer engagement/education initiatives—

  • LS&Co. started with changing its garment care labels to read “wash in cold water” and “tumble dry medium,” with an eye to reducing energy use.

  • In Fall 2010, the care label on LS&Co. products around the word will also bear a call for consumers to donate to charity when the garment is no longer needed.

  • LS&Co. partnered with the Alliance to Save Energy and Procter & Gamble to encourage consumers to save energy and money by washing their jeans in cold water.

  • It is contacting new partners to educate shoppers in retail stores about the importance of water and dryer temperature, and reuse or recycling when our clothes are discarded.

In addition, it continues to push sustainability in the following areas: Water

The company is decreasing water usage and improving water quality in significant, measurable ways. From cotton production, fabric manufacturing and finishing products, LS&Co. relies on abundant sources of clean water. The company also needs potable water to sustain the health of the workers who produce the apparel. Specific programmes to address water conservation include—

  • Its Global Effluent Guidelines (GEG) set water quality standards and mandate maximum wastewater contaminant levels for its manufacturing locations worldwide. In 2008, LS&Co. began working with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and 12 other companies to extend the GEG to second-tier suppliers of bulk fabric and sundry items.

  • Future efforts will go beyond keeping water clean to comprehensive water management programmes including water reclamation, water efficiency, and reuse.

  • Water footprint analysis in 2008, which has led to water reduction activities in distribution centers and owned manufacturing facilities. The company is finalising a methodology for analysing the water footprint of its supply chain partners to be deployed in 2010.



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