Case Studies

Levi’s CSR Strategy: Way More Than Just Jeans

4 months ago

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Levi’s CSR Strategy: Way More Than Just Jeans

Generally speaking, the UK summer lasts approximately 4 days. That means I can spend the remaining 361 wearing jeans, and by jeans, I mean Levi’s.

While this summer might just be the exception, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I pretty much live in my pair, and they’re comfortably my staple fashion item.

That’s why I consciously made an effort to seek out the best quality jeans I could find, and a price that wasn’t too extortionate.

Next thing I knew I was immersed in a Levi’s store, frantically trying to work out which combination of numbers was the best fit.

Fortunately though, they’re way more than just a pair of jeans.

As I starting looking for the next company to analyse on this blog, I started doing some digging.

Using the same framework I used in my Costa Coffee post, here’s what I found:

Levi's CSR | Jason Wicks

Targeted CSR

Straight away, Levi’s strengths as a socially responsible company shine through.

While in 1991 they were the first multinational apparel company to introduce a supplier code of conduct, they added to that in 2014 by creating a sustainability incentive program.

In essence, the program incentivised suppliers to upgrade their environmental and labour standards, rewarding them for doing so.

Naturally, these are the issues that spring to mind when consumers think of the apparel industry, so they’re off to a pretty good start.

However, they don’t stop there.

As I mentioned in my Blue Planet post, the best strategies educate and raise awareness, instead of just appeasing the majority of consumers.

This is where they impress me the most.

They have been at the forefront of the movement against excessive water usage in manufacturing, and pioneered their Water<Less products, reducing usage by up to 96 %. 

Since then, they’ve also introduced Waste<Less, where items are made from 20% consumer waste, and ‘Wellthread’ which is an entire production process with closed loop sustainability in mind.

Not only is it very responsible, it draws attention to problems that many consumers wouldn’t naturally associate with clothing.

Targeted Score: 9/10

Potentially a bit too environmentally focussed, but that’s being very pedantic.

Levi's CSR | Jason Wicks

Integrated CSR

Hands down, this criteria is where Levi’s are most impressive.

They call their overall strategy ‘Made of Progress’, which I think is pretty catchy and works for this industry.

However, where integration becomes obvious is when looking at historical behaviour. Generally speaking, many companies didn’t bother with CSR until customers started expecting it. That means, companies that were being socially responsible a long time ago were most likely doing it for the right reasons.

As I mentioned, they started looking at supplier standards in 1991. But, they also integrated all their factories before civil rights laws were brought in. They invented the first blue jeans for women, and were even supporting employees with HIV and AIDS before the disease even had its name.

Levi’s clearly care about this.

On top of that, just look at how they’ve implemented their sustainability vision.

Instead of just offsetting the damage they’re doing, they’ve designed and redesigned entire production processes around environmental concerns.

What more could we realistically ask them to do?

Integrated Score 10/10

If they’re not perfect, they’re hiding it very well.

Levi's CSR | Jason Wicks

Communicated CSR

This is an interesting one.

With other companies, I’ve looked at their social media and how well they promote social responsibility.

With Levi’s they do things differently.

Yes, they use Facebook and Twitter to promote CSR activity, especially with Pride recently.

However, when it comes to communicating CSR, they have a far more holistic view, and it works extremely well.

Take their slogan for example ‘Live in Levi’s’. Yes it’s a nice anagram, but it’s actually a very clever sustainability message. While companies usually urge you to replace the products they sell you, Levi’s have creating a value proposition that revolves around you not replacing them.

The idea is that you keep them for as long as possible.

In today’s world where everything is disposable, this is very powerful. I personally think they have actually shaped the whole market and almost created the concept of jeans being something you don’t replace often.

To compliment that, they help you take care of your jeans, all with sustainability in mind. Take a look at this website for more detail.

Communication Score 9/10

I do think social media could be better utilised, but their overall brand communication is very powerful.

Levi’s CSR – A Summary

Yes Levi’s are expensive, but they are definitely worth it. They’re clearly a company that care about social responsibility as they were investing in it long before customers started expecting it. Their entire value proposition is incredibly clever and further enforces the fact that CSR and Sustainability are deeply integrated into the company.

I genuinely love my Levi’s and I was almost nervous that researching for this post might put me off.

Realistically, it’s made me even more of a proud owner.

Side note: Their CSR blog section is full of great articles, check it out if you want to learn more.

Who shall I score next?

If you like this format of analysing a company’s CSR strategy, drop me a comment to tell me which business you’d like me to look at next!

Hi! I’m an author and blogger within the fields of social impact and responsible business. I believe that businesses can be a force for good in the world, and this website contains my thoughts on how that can work.

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