How sustainable are your jeans?
Since the first pair was created in 1873, Levi’s has grown to be a multi-billion-dollar company, synonymous with denim products world-wide, with their iconic 501 considered a wardrobe staple. But what is the company doing to minimise their impact on our environment today? We’ve all heard the phrase ‘no ethical consumption under capitalism’, but is it true? Let’s take a look at the brands efforts.
In 1991, Levi’s launched their own Terms of Engagement, aiming to combat unethical work practices & ensure workers along the production chain had access to equal safety measures. This code of conduct ensures no child labour, forced labour, or violence within the work place. The brand itself views these terms as influential, claiming they inspired other brands to implement similar practices for ensuring fairness for workers. Though it sounds great in theory, the conduct code does not ensure all supply chain workers are paid a living wage. Considering the huge $5.8 billion revenue of 2019, Levi’s still has room to improve when it comes to paying their workers.
The brand set some big goals for 2020, aiming to reduce harmful emissions by 25% within their production, and to produce 80% of their items using ‘Water<less’ technology. 2020 saw the release of their ‘most sustainable denim ever’ and the launch of ‘Levi’s SecondHand’, the scheme in which the brand buys back ‘beat up’ and ‘broken in’ Levi’s products, to be cleaned and resold via their website. The brand aims to reduce the amount of Levi’s items ending up in landfill.
Today the brand continues to make good on their promises to reduce their impact by teaming up, for a second time, with GANNI, releasing a fourteen-piece collection of hemp products, in place of traditional denim. The process involves using less water, less pesticides, and the result is softer, more luxurious denim-like products.
Firmly against fast-fashion, Levi’s call their products ‘an investment’. Long-term, it is better to buy a high-quality, well-made piece that will stand the test of time. Much of today’s fast-fashion industry is a false economy, in that cheaper products are produced to a lower standard, and poorly manufactured. Levi’s make products to last, as any owner of a vintage item knows, their products hold up even after 40+ years, and even when they do wear out, can be reworked into a recycled product.
Overall, it seems like Levi’s has made a great start towards consciously reducing their environmental impact, though there is room for improvement. A sure-fire way to shop ethically is, always, to shop second hand and vintage where possible, and where possible, buy long lasting, durable, and well-made items.
By Eleanor Aithwaite.
Photos by James Allen