Denim production requires large amounts of water, energy and chemicals. The volume of natural resources utilized before a pair of jeans reaches a person’s closet is quite substantial. Last week, we caught up with Paul Dillinger, vice president for global product innovations at Levi’s, to talk about the denim brand’s efforts toward sustainability and how they are taking responsibility for the social and environmental footprint of their products and operations.
“The real obligation to sustainability has nothing to do with consumer demand. If you know that you can make your products more responsibly, where it is cleaner, it saves more water, it reduces carbon impact. If you know it can be done and you don’t do it, there is such a thing as business ethics and morality. And it’s a violation of business morality to know that the job could be done better and choose not to,” said Dillinger in an exclusive interview with BusinessMirror.
Levi’s recently launched a multi-platform global campaign, titled “Buy Better, Wear Longer,” which focuses on creating quality clothing that lasts for generations by employing sustainable production practices and investing in alternative materials and technology. The campaign also urges consumers to be mindful about their purchases and, hopefully, even in the way they care for their clothing.
Water is one of the planet’s most drained resource. A 2012 study (bit.ly/3xFqYC9) showed that in a day, the average office building in the US uses 22,000 gallons of water.
About 76 percent of all Levi Strauss & Co. products and 70 percent of all Levi’s bottoms and trucker jackets are fabricated using water technology that follows certain water recycling regulations. These regulations have saved more than 4 billion liters of water and recycled nearly 10 billion liters of water since its implementation in 2014.
“If you look at the long term, the issue is supply chain resilience. If you’re so dependent on depleting resources to do your business, you’re putting your business at risk. We’re finding ways at creating our products by using fresh water,” said Dillinger.
In the long-term, Levi’s is focusing on four key issue areas—water, climate, chemicals and people—leading to the development of its 2025 Water Action Strategy, its science-based targets on climate, Screened Chemistry and other efforts to keep hazardous chemicals out of the supply chain, and its worker well-being program. They’re also expanding their focus on issues, such as waste, plastics, purchasing practices and other aspects of the business.
Levi’s has a collection of denim made of cottonized hemp fabric that uses fewer amounts of water and pesticides compared to conventional materials. Hemp used from rain-fed crops is incorporated into the clothes, further reducing the water usage. “Cotton hemp is traditionally coarse and hard to weave. We’re working with partners to make it softer and easier to wear,” said Dillinger.
It has collaborated with Copenhagen-based brand Ganni for the second time for a sustainable denim collection.
The brand is also using the campaign to encourage consumers to be more mindful of their apparel choices. Consumers are encouraged to wear each item longer. By using the Levi’s in-store Tailor Shops to extend the life of their jeans and jackets. The brand also has a SecondHand platform, which consumers can use to extend the life of their garments, and ongoing Wellthread design innovation efforts that are focused on making their products and practices more circular. “Our Care Tag for the Our Planet, sewn into our garments, also provides simple instructions for how consumers can best care for the garment and extend its useful life, while avoiding unnecessary water and energy use in doing so. Our new marketing campaign complements this by promoting more sustainable design, production and consumption practices, something we are driving throughout our operations, too,” said Dillinger.
The Levi’s “Buy Better, Wear Longer” global campaign also features a group of Gen Z activists and influencers including rapper Jaden Smith, Manchester United star Marcus Rashford, YouTuber Emma Chamberlain, climate activist Xiye Bastida, entrepreneur Melati Wijsen and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.
We asked Dillinger, being an expert on jeans, how often a pair should be washed.
He cited a study done by a student in Canada. In 2011, Josh Le, a student at the University of Alberta, wore the same pair of jeans for 15 months straight, and they had the same bacteria levels as they did when he wore them for less than two weeks.
“Washing them after three uses should be good. Wash them as infrequently as you are comfortable wearing them. Wash the jeans in cold water and hang them to dry instead of using a dryer,” said Dillinger.
In the Philippines, consumers get a P25 rebate when they bring their own shopping bags to purchase at Levi’s stores. The Levi’s in-store Tailor Shops at Robinsons Place Manila, Ayala Manila Bay, The SM Store, SM Makati and Robinsons Place Iloilo also offer free up-cycling, alteration and repair of Levi’s jeans during special event dates.
Image courtesy of © kjellruben