We want our products to be part of a sustainable global movement. That’s why the factories that make our clothes must adhere to our Terms of Engagement. These Terms define labor, health, safety and environmental guidelines to help ensure the safety of apparel workers and communities in which they live and work. They also set out employment standards and specifically address issues of child labor, forced labor, disciplinary practices, working hours, wages and benefits, building integrity, freedom of association, discrimination, and health and safety.
OUR FEATURED SUPPLIERS
For more than 155 years, Levi Strauss & Co. has worked to honor the pioneering spirit of hard work, individuality and authenticity in how we make our products and how we 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 these communities.
In October 2005, we were the first apparel company 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 leads to sector-wide improvement on supplier performance on improving workplace conditions.
BETTER WORK PROGRAM
We actively support the International Labor Organization’s Better Work program to improve working conditions in apparel factories. Better Work brings local enterprises, international buyers, governments and NGOs together to build partnerships and create a rigorous cycle of improvement.
IMPROVING WORKER CONDITIONS
In 1991, we were the first multinational apparel company to establish a comprehensive workplace code of conduct, known as our Terms of Engagement, for our manufacturing suppliers. Our Sustainability Guidebook spells out in detail these 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. Between 1999 and 2005, we strengthened protections of workers’ rights to form unions and conduct collective bargaining. And in 2014, we included new guidelines regarding, migrant workers, fire safety and building integrity.
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 remedy.
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 their 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.
We employ full-time headcount in select geographical areas, located around the world where our suppliers are. They are responsible to manage our external monitor qualification program as well as local partnerships like the International Labor Organization’s Better Work program. These external monitors 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 in cycles of 12 to 15 months of every factory contracted to manufacture our products. These assessments are based on standards found in our Sustainability Guidebook. Assessments involve on-site and off-site discussions with workers using specific guidelines developed by Ask called Gathering Information from 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. Public attention surrounding the situation in Bangladesh prompted us to share our building stability reports publicly.
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.
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 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. View a full list of our collaborators.
We are a member of and are program partners actively engaged in supporting the International Labor Organization’s Better Work program.
In 1991, we created our Terms of Engagement, which was a first for the apparel industry and details what we require of our business partners in practices pertaining to everything from worker rights to the environment.
We’ve been working to extend these manufacturing guidelines further in our supply chain to the textile mills, but are happy to find that 100 percent of our nominated fabric mill suppliers are already focused on sustainability. For example, one of our largest mill suppliers in Mexico operates one of the world’s largest privately owned wastewater treatment plants. This facility has state-of-the art technology that enables it to recycle approximately 75 percent of its water and direct it to other production processes, restrooms and landscape irrigation.
We are one of six apparel companies working with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on a pioneering initiative to reduce the environmental impact of textile mills in China. As part of the NRDC’s Responsible Sourcing Initiative, so far four mills in Phase I and three mills in Phase II have reduced their water, energy and chemical use, and the NRDC has developed a guide to sustainable practices that will be used by other mills worldwide.
The Responsible Sourcing Initiative works with Chinese mills to identify practical, low-cost and cost-saving opportunities to increase operational efficiencies, while reducing materials, water and energy use and decreasing waste and emissions. The initiative seeks to spread best practices through convening the mills to share experiences and demonstrate how simple and inexpensive actions can yield sizable impacts.
In September of 2013, NRDC adopted RSI’s Ten Best Practices in China and collaborated with the International Finance Commission to work with two city governments, Shaoxing city and Guangdong province, on its city-track initiative. The effort brought together mills, with the support and collaboration of city governments, to promote the Ten Best Practices to reduce energy use and carbon emissions and increase water efficiency. Mills that LS&Co. works with in both Shaoxing city and Guangdong province participated in the city-track initiative.
NRDC also organized a series of technical training workshops to disseminate knowledge, experience and best practices across the industry to improve energy, water, and resource efficiency today and in the future. NRDC partnered with LS&Co. to make follow-up visits to mills to encourage the adoption of these energy and water saving measures.
Cotton is grown in more than 80 countries and accounts for 40 percent of global textile production. China, India and the U.S. alone account for nearly two-thirds of that global output which supports the livelihoods of 250 million people or nearly seven percent of all labor in the developing world.
Though LS&Co. is a big consumer of cotton, we use less than one percent of the world’s annual cotton crop. The fragmented industry landscape makes it challenging to promote sustainable practices.
By creating alliances with other large cotton consumers, we leverage the power of our brands in support of more sustainably produced cotton — thus using less water and fewer pesticides.
To form the Better Cotton Initiative, we joined forces with other brands and retailers, including H&M, Marks & Spencer, Adidas and IKEA. Also key to this effort are groups like World Wildlie Fund, Pesticide Action Network UK, Solidaridad and farmers’ organizations such as the International Federation of Agricultural Producers. LS&Co. plans to continue working with its global suppliers with the goal of sourcing approximately 75 percent Better Cotton by 2020, up from 6 percent today.
We’ve also teamed up with other stakeholders to take a stand on how cotton is grown in Uzbekistan. We don’t buy cotton directly and do not allow our suppliers to buy Uzbek cotton because of forced labor practices.
OTHER RAW MATERIALS
Though fewer than 5 percent of the raw materials in our supply chain are from sources other than cotton and a small fraction of that percentage is material derived from animals, Levi Strauss & Co. still strives to source materials responsibly. Our goal is to ensure that wherever animals are used in the production of our products, their health and welfare are protected. View our corporate Animal Welfare Policy.
As part of our commitment to source sustainable forest fabrics, we are working with environmental nonprofit Canopy and others in the apparel industry to ensure that no forest-based materials that originate from the world’s ancient and endangered forests are used to make our products.
LS&Co. supports the efforts undertaken by the Dodd-Frank Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to eliminate illegal mineral trading and the funding of armed conflict, while supporting legitimate commercial ventures in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighboring countries. You can read our Conflict Minerals Policy Statement to learn more.