innovative practices: suppliers operations
For more than 155 years, Levi Strauss & Co. has worked to honor the pioneering spirit of hard work, individuality and authenticity in how we’ve made our products, and how we’ve run our company. We’ve dedicated ourselves to elevating the dignity of the people who work to bring our clothing to market. And we’ve invested our time, energy, heart and resources in improving the future of those sourcing communities.
OUR CODE OF CONDUCT
Almost two decades ago, in 1991, we were the first multinational apparel company to establish a comprehensive workplace code of conduct for our manufacturing suppliers. Our Sustainability Guidebook spells out labor, health and safety, and environmental requirements. It is based on United Nations documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Labor Organization (ILO) Core Conventions. Over the years, many companies have adopted similar codes of conduct, and today most of those reflect our original Terms of Engagement. In 1995, we added strict water quality standards as part of our environmental requirements. And in 1999 and 2005, we strengthened protections of workers’ rights to form unions and conduct collective bargaining.
Over the years, we have established a strong program to assess how well our suppliers are meeting our code and, when we identify problems, how to improve. We have also learned that monitoring our suppliers is only one part of improving working conditions. In addition to working directly with our suppliers, we have programs in the communities to strengthen worker rights. We also work with governments to strengthen labor laws and their enforcement. Ultimately, improving working conditions in our supplier factories requires the involvement of our suppliers, local organizations, governments and other buyers that may be sourcing in those factories.
AT THE FACTORY
We employ full-time factory assessors, located around the world where our suppliers are. These experts understand the scope of our labor and environment, health and safety standards and know the local languages, laws, culture and business context of each country in which we operate. They conduct regular assessments of every factory contracted to manufacture our products. These assessments are based on standards found in our Sustainability Guidebook, which all our suppliers receive in their local language. These assessments involve on-site and off-site discussions with workers, management interviews, review of factory records (such as timecards and payroll) and environment, health and safety inspections. Each assessment identifies areas for improvement and a detailed corrective action plan, including actions, responsible parties, and timelines. Regular follow-up visits are also conducted to ensure suppliers are completing their corrective action plans on a timely basis. Recent public attention to the situation in Bangladesh has prompted us to share additional information about our efforts there.
Over the years, we have learned that while the factory assessment process is important, the key to lasting improvement in working conditions is for our suppliers themselves to understand and appreciate the importance of operating a responsible workplace. Today, we are spending more time and resources working with our suppliers to improve their human resource and environment, health and safety programs, training their personnel and developing the systems to operate a responsible workplace.
IN THE COMMUNITY
The Levi Strauss Foundation focuses on funding programs that strengthen worker rights and improve the working and living conditions for the people who make our products. Through these grants, we support innovative local, regional and global nonprofit organizations that encourage the enforcement of labor laws, increase awareness around health care issues and promote access to asset-building and life skills training for our employees, contractors and their families.
As pioneers in the fight for fair employment practices, we firmly believe that workplace standards and worker rights should be an integral part of all bilateral, regional or multilateral trade negotiations. Levi Strauss & Co. was the first and only major multinational company to publicly advocate for linkage of trade and labor, incorporating key workplace standards and worker rights provisions within the context of trade agreements. And we continue to do so whenever and wherever we can — through congressional testimony, meetings with senior government officials, trade negotiations and multi-stakeholder initiatives.
In October 2005, we were one of the first apparel companies to release the names and locations of all our active, approved owned-and-operated, contract and licensee factories that manufacture and finish Levi’s®, Dockers® and Signature by Levi Strauss™ products. We believe that making our factory list public fosters collaboration with other brands and lead to sector-wide improvement on supplier performance on improving workplace conditions.
In many cases, we are not the only apparel company working with a given supplier. One of the reasons we are transparent about our suppliers is to reach out to other apparel brands and organizations to see how we can work together in the factories we share. By getting the rest of the industry involved, we are able to send a stronger message to our suppliers about the importance of operating a responsible workplace.
We are a member of the Fair Factories Clearinghouse along with brands like adidas, L.L.Bean, Starbucks, Timberland and VF Corp., which are dedicated to improving workplace conditions. We are also actively engaged in supporting the International Labor Organization’s Better Work program, as well as the BSR Apparel Mills and Sundries Working Group, which we helped to establish to improve working conditions further up our supply chain — in fabric mills and sundry/component parts suppliers.