CSR - Care Tags - Levi Strauss & Co partner with Goodwill for environmental campaign

Jo Matthews

Last updated 11/3/2009 2:50:36 PM

Levi Strauss & Co., in partnership with Goodwill, has begun a campaign designed to encourage customers to treat their clothes in an environmentally responsible manner.

The new ‘Care tags' will be sewed into all items of clothing, and are about encouraging people to wash items in cold water, dry them on a line, and ultimately, donate them to Goodwill.

The company is the first major retailer to include messaging on a product that encourages the donation of unwanted garments, and is a move against the landfill-clogging ‘throwaway fashion' that is becoming increasingly problematic in the western world.   An estimated 23.8 billion pounds of textiles end up in American landfills each year.

The decision to focus on customer behavior stems from a cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment that Levi Strauss did on its iconic 501 jeans. The study examined the environmental impact of a single pair of 501s — from cotton production and transport exhaust to washer-and-dryer use and final disposal. The assessment found that each pair of 501s is responsible for 32 kilograms of carbon dioxide over its lifetime – the equivalent of 78 miles driven by the average automobile in the United States. It also calculated that more than 3,000 liters of water – enough for 53 seven-minute showers, or 575 toilet flushes – were used over the product's life cycle.

Michael Kobori, vice president of social and environmental sustainability at Levi Strauss commented ‘This is the first major step to begin to engage consumers in their environmental impact and what they can do reduce it'

The assessment found that each pair of 501s is responsible for 32 kilograms of carbon dioxide over its lifetime – the equivalent of 78 miles driven by the average automobile in the United States. It also calculated that more than 3,000 liters of water – enough for 53 seven-minute showers, or 575 toilet flushes – were used over the product's life cycle. (That included the amount of water needed to grow the cotton and keep the clothes clean). 400 megajoules of energy were consumed over the life of the jeans, enough to power a personal computer for 556 hours. About 50 percent of the energy consumption occurs after the jeans are purchased, Mr. Kobori said, with the bulk of the rest occurring during the cotton-growing stage.

To address the areas of impact that are in the company's control, Levi Strauss has set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for its operations and is purchasing organic cotton, which is grown more sustainably using fewer chemicals.

Along with IKEA, Gap Inc., and other retailers, Levi Strauss is part of the Better Cotton Initiative, which works to improve the environmental and social impact of cotton cultivation worldwide, according to the group's Web site.

The tags will appear on Levi Strauss products beginning in January.

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