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How does a clothing giant like Levi's tackle the questions of sustainable fashion that the textile industry is getting fraught with?
Anuja Ojha, Senior Specialist, Sustainability - India & Sri Lanka, at Levi Strauss & Co. charts the company's vision for sustainable clothing.
1. What do you have to say about the fast fashion cycle that puts workers' incomes and lives at risk as well as the environment?
Ojha: According to our lifecycle assessment, an average pair of Levi's jeans is worn for a little more than three years before being donated or discarded.
Our clothes are built to last. If taken care of properly, a pair of Levi's jeans can last for decades if not centuries (a pair of Levi's jeans in our archives dating back to the 1800s), which is not only good for your wallet but also good for the environment.
As a company, we have taken other innovative sustainable steps that include a series of innovative finishing techniques we call Water
2. The textile industry is a major polluter. How can fashion give out a message of sustainability?
Ojha: At Levi Strauss & Co., we have long recognized our responsibility as an industry leader to push for more sustainable ways of making our clothes.
We also recognize that water issues pose some of the greatest threats to the global economy and people around the world. We also acknowledge that water demand and scarcity are variable and that our prior efforts at the manufacturing stages reflected the one-size-fits-all approach that did not address the geographically nuanced reality of water stress.
Recognizing that saving a liter of water where it is plentiful, while important, is not as critical as saving a liter where water is scarce, LS&Co. will shift from a singular "one-size-fits-all" approach to a more responsive, contextual approach to water management. This will allow LS&Co. to focus reduction efforts where they are needed most, with a goal of reducing its cumulative water use for manufacturing by 50 percent in water-stressed areas by 2025.
In 2010, the Levi Strauss Foundation partnered with Better Cotton in India and other cotton-producing countries to support the critical needs of cotton farmers. Based in Geneva, the Better Cotton Initiative promotes growing cotton in ways that are healthier for farming communities and for the environment. Better Cotton farmers use less water and fewer chemicals. In 2010, more than 30,000 farmers were trained in producing better cotton globally.
Through this initiative, LSF supported LS&Co.'s vision to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment and better for the sector's future. Funding is now made via the Sustainable Trade Initiative.
60 percent of LS&Co.'s bottoms and 27 percent of tops produced in India are made from Better Cotton. The Better Cotton Initiative promotes the use of cotton farmed to higher environmental, social, and economic standards.
3. Globally, climate change activists have been urging brands to clean up after themselves and take responsibility for what they produce. How has Levi Strauss reduced its carbon footprint?
Ojha: We have set aside a 2025 Climate Action Strategy, which sets concrete and achievable science-based targets for making significant reductions in carbon emissions - a major contributor to climate change - across our entire global supply chain.
Our sustainability targets include a 90 percent reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions within our own facilities and a 40 percent reduction in our global supply chain. In addition, we will source 100 percent of its electricity from renewables, up from its current level of 20 percent.