Levi’s is one of the best known apparel brands, most famous for its huge range of denim jeans. Over the last few years, fast fashion has taken off around the world and Levi’s has become one of the first companies that I have seen take an active stance against this type of business model. Their new campaigns and marketing ads show that they would rather their consumers buy better and buy less than buy cheaper and buy more. Overall, I was very impressed with how Levi’s are conducting themselves and the steps they are taking towards becoming a more sustainable company
Levi’s jeans are made of a mixture of 5 different materials: cotton, polyester, elastane, viscose and lyocell. Most jeans are primarily made of cotton mixed with a very small amount, usually < 10% total, of elastane and polyester. Levi’s works in partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which is an organisation that helps to improve the methods used to grow and cultivate cotton by working with farmers in cotton producing countries. By the end of 2019, 83% of all cotton used by Levi’s was coming from sustainable sources and they have pledged to continue their efforts until this number is 100%. These figures can be tracked by consumers in the regularly released sustainability reports produced by Levi’s. In addition to this, Levi’s Water<Less techniques are saving billions of litres of water every year during the finishing process. Polyester and elastane are not ideal components since they are non-biodegradable, however, Levi’s has in place an elastane recycling programme and since such a tiny amount is used in all garments, the environmental impact of this is quite low compared to a lot of other companies. Man-made viscose and lyocell are also being used widely now by Levi’s. Their sustainability report outlines that they have ensured their suppliers are using the most sustainable methods possible for this and the transition towards larger quantities of lyocell is a good step since it uses less energy and water than generic viscose. Levi’s are also initiating the movement towards “Cottonized Hemp,” a substance that turns out identical to pure cotton but is a much more sustainable alternative. Hemp grows faster, uses less water and energy to grow, and leaves behind healthier soil after harvesting. The new cottonization process has allowed hemp to be softened, making the final products identical whilst having a smaller impact on the Earth.
The launch of Levi’s Worker Well-Being (WWB) Initiative in 2011 saw them move towards a new type of mindset: understanding and believing that when their factory workers are healthy and happy, productivity will increase. The WWB initiative aims to improve the lives of workers by focusing on issues related to health, financial security, and gender equality. The latest report from Levi’s in 2019 showed that already 65% of Levi’s workforce was covered by WWB and this figure will continue to grow until it reaches 100%. Like with the sustainable cotton, numbers can be tracked by the consumer in the sustainability and transparency reports. With regards to climate, I found 8 different organisations and initiatives, from the Partnership for Cleaner Textiles to the We Are Still In campaign, that Levi’s has partnered with over the years as they aim to have a 90% reduction in emissions by 2025, a goal which they are currently on target for.
During 2021, Levi’s launched their “Buy Better, Wear Longer” campaign, featuring well known celebrities including YouTube sensation, Emma Chamberlain, and England football player and activist, Marcus Rashford. The aim of the ad is to promote Levi’s as an alternative to fast fashion by buying better quality clothing that will last longer, therefore generating less clothing waste. This campaign has been coupled with their Repair, Reimagine and Recycle programme, a flagship project involving the opening of tailor stores across the globe where consumers can take their denim in to be repaired, further extending the life cycle of their products. Though this service isn’t free, the tailors are highly skilled and don’t just do repairs; other services available include hemming trousers, tapering trousers, waist adjustments, adding patches, pins, and studs, as well as upcycling old jeans or completely customising your new pair to make them unique for you. Several other initiatives have been started by Levi’s in the last few years including their partnership with Blue Jeans Go Green, which allowed waste jeans to be turned into building insulation, saving approximately 66 tonnes worth of fabric from going straight to landfill. Personally, I believe that Levi’s is going above and beyond what most other companies are doing, and marketing specifically towards Gen Z is a clever tactic that I think will work well.