How we make our products is just as important as what we make. That’s why we carefully weigh our decisions and consider our impact at every step of our process.
Unfortunately, just buying an “eco-friendly” T-shirt or that jacket made from recycled plastic won’t save the planet. The truth of the matter is that all clothes have a negative environmental impact. Even pieces made from 100% organic materials. Even Levi’s®.
We’re not saying that brands should stop producing or that you should stop buying clothes. We’re saying that brands have a responsibility to put more thought into how and what they produce, just as consumers have a responsibility to put more thought into how and what they purchase.
We make clothing; our footprint will never be zero. But this reality won’t stop us from striving to do as little harm as possible. As a company with a global supply chain, we’re accountable to the people who wear and love our clothes, the workers who make the garments, the communities in which they are assembled and the resources of this planet that we all share. It’s in this spirit that we commit to constant progress and self-assessment to ensure we're delivering quality products that people love, while leaving as little harm in our wake as possible.
The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every—single—second, culminating in 460 billion dollars worth of clothing wasted in the span of a year. 40% of clothing purchased in some countries is never worn. With the rise of fast fashion, many people refresh their wardrobes every season in pursuit of the latest trends. We’ve grown increasingly less thoughtful about our purchasing decisions, because we can afford to do so—but can we really?
Here at Levi’s®, we know that the cost of fast fashion is too high. In order to divest from this cycle of waste, we approach our design processes and business models as powerful opportunities to advance sustainability throughout the lifecycle of our products. That means creating durable styles made to last, both in terms of style and construction. It means only investing our time, efforts and materials into styles we think will transcend time and trends. It means thinking from the get-go about how we can dramatically reduce our use of natural resources and increase our use of alternative materials. It also means designing with an eye towards fully circular products, and eventually, a closed-loop economy.
THE GOOD STUFF
The clothes we wear are only as good as what goes into them. That’s why we weave careful consciousness, research and innovation into where—and how—we source our materials.
While we don’t grow cotton ourselves, we’re heavily invested in how it impacts the places where it’s planted and communities it supports. In order to support better cotton systems, we’ve set a goal to only use 100% sustainably sourced cotton by 2025. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re well on our way to making it happen.
We approach other natural fibers and synthetics with the same sense of consciousness, striving to source responsibly and leave behind the smallest possible footprint. One of the primary ways we do that is through innovations. Over the past few years, we’ve introduced TENCEL™ lyocell (fibers made from eucalyptus grown in sustainably managed forests), and recycled polyester (exactly what it sounds like) into our line. And we’re always looking to innovate and introduce more sustainable fabrics and fibers strategies into our supply chain.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Every step of our process matters, and our production methods are no exception. We harness data and innovation to continuously transform every aspect of our manufacturing process.
- Labor standards: Our Terms of Engagement ensure that all the factories we work with meet ethical labor standards.
- Worker Well-being: We partner with suppliers and local organizations to create programs focused on financial empowerment, health, equality and acceptance. Before implementing any of these programs, LS&Co.’s suppliers survey factory workers to hear their needs first-hand. Once identified, LS&Co. and its suppliers partner with local and national non-profits and NGOs to implement programs to meet the needs of workers.
- Water usage: We aim to reduce our use of our planet’s most essential resource in manufacturing by 50% in areas of high water stress by 2025. And we have saved 4.2 billion liters of water since introducing Water < Less® in 2011.
- Screened chemistry: We’re committed to identifying and removing potentially harmful chemicals from our supply chain.
Levi’s® is part of a much larger picture and there’s only so much we can do alone. To this end, we share our findings with others brands in hopes of catalyzing changes across the industry.
REPAIR. REIMAGINE. RECYCLE.
A garment’s footprint doesn’t stop once it’s made and purchased. In fact, how you treat and dispose of your jeans accounts for 23% of the total water used and up to 40% of the climate impact of its lifecycle.
So, here’s the bad news: Over half of all garments made are burned or buried within the span of just one year, with around 20 billion garments of clothes ending up in a landfill each year. This has to change.
Luckily, we have good news too: There’s a lot you can do to reduce the impact of your clothes and we’ve made it a priority to educate shoppers on care and recycling. By wearing your clothes for an extra nine months, you can reduce their carbon, waste and water footprint up to 30%. Practices like washing your jeans less often and getting them repaired, reinforced or altogether reworked give new life to old clothes. Our Tailor Tutorials series is a good place to start. If you’d rather leave it to the experts (a.k.a. us), the Levi’s® Tailor Shop has you covered.
Not all clothes are meant to be family heirlooms passed down for generations—and that’s okay. When your time with a garment is up, recycling programs (like Levi’s® SecondHand!) can significantly extend the lifetime of your garments.
All clothes come at a cost. So the next time you shop, ask yourself if the cost is worth it: Do you see yourself wearing this garment year after year? Do you actually like that piece, or are you only getting it because this style is “in” right now? While improvements within LS&Co. are all well and good, they’re not enough—we need everyone, shoppers and brands alike, to do their part to affect industry-wide structural change. We've come a long way, and together we can go so much further.
Facts and figures from:
"These facts show how unsustainable the fashion industry is” by the World Economic Forum
“ A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future” by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
“ How Much Do Our Wardrobes Cost to the Environment?” by the World Bank
“ There is a Textile Waste Crisis” by ThredUp
“ The LIfe Cycle of a Jean” and “ Use & Reuse” by Levi Strauss & Co.