We believe that “later” too often means “never” in the fight for a socially just world. By letting our company voice be heard, we act as a force for change, supporting the movement toward an equitable society for all. Thus we are engaged in the battle for equal rights on many fronts: racial, gender, sexual and economic.

USING THE POWER OF ACTION TO INFLUENCE HOW PEOPLE SEE THE WORLD

Through our public policy advocacy, our media and advertising presence, and our work in the community, we aim to influence how people around the world perceive and treat others. For example, the U.S. Levi’s® brand has led pioneering efforts in the fight for equality for decades. Levi Strauss & Co. is part of a broad coalition of marriage equality supporters urging the Supreme Court to recognize the fundamental right of all Americans to marry. In 2013, we joined the “friend of the court” briefs for both the United States v. Windsor case on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the Hollingsworth v. Perry case on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in the state of California. And in 2007, LS&Co. was the only California business to file an amicus brief with the California Supreme Court, supporting same-sex marriage.

The company is also strongly supportive of the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles, guide posts for actions that advance and empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. It’s especially relevant for an apparel company, where so many of those who make the products we sell are women – up to 75%, depending upon the country. Another example of Levi Strauss & Co. putting its words into action is a partnership with Business for Social Responsibility on a big idea: The HERproject – for Health Enables Returns – seeks to educate apparel factory workers about reproductive health and access to health services.

EXPANDING THE FRONTIERS OF OPPORTUNITY

While many people are aware of the income divide between men and women and between people of different races and ethnic backgrounds, the fact remains that asset inequality dwarfs income inequality worldwide. In the United States, for every one dollar in net worth of a household headed by a male, a female-headed household has less than 40 cents. For every one dollar in net worth of a household headed by a white adult, a minority-headed household has about six cents.

Asset building seeks fresh solutions to intergenerational poverty by focusing on public policies and programs that enable low-income working people to accumulate valuable assets. Pioneering these efforts, ours was the first corporate foundation to support a groundbreaking pilot called the American Dream Demonstration (a collaboration between the Center for Enterprise Development and the Center for Social Development) in 1997. It was the first large-scale test of Individual Development Accounts—matched savings accounts for the working poor devoted to purchasing a home, paying for college or skills training, and starting a small business.

The findings of the five-year American Dream Demonstration have powerfully influenced policies and yielded two groundbreaking insights:

  • Low-income working people, when given the right incentives and support—including financial education—can and do save for long-term goals.
  • Building assets has profound effects on individuals and families and enables them to plan for the future and avoid risky behavior, weather unexpected financial storms, lower their housing costs through ownership and create their own job opportunities through entrepreneurship.

Read a case study of our work with EARN, a San Francisco-based organization that helps people build assets — and better lives.

HETRICK-MARTIN INSTITUTE — GIVE THEM HOPE NOW (LEVI’S)