Levi’s Continued Activism

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Spotlight on Levi Strauss & Co.

For much of its 167-year history, Levi Strauss & Co. can arguably be characterized as an activist corporation, putting its financial and human resources behind an encyclopedic range of causes, from social justice and worker rights to sustainability and gun control.

More to the point, it has taken bold stands when other major corporations remained in the shadows. Levi Strauss integrated its sewing factories in the South years before the 1964 Civil Rights Act; in the 1990s it was the first Fortune 500 company to offer employees same-sex partner benefits. And while other socially engaged companies give their employees paid leave each month to take part in volunteer efforts. Levi Strauss is one of the few to extend that policy to include political activism. “We’re encouraging our employees to use their time to make an impact,” says CEO Chip Bergh,

Based in San Francisco, Levi Strauss operates through some 50,000 retail locations in 110 countries and routinely posts annual sales well into nine figures—but does so without prioritizing profit over principle. At Carpenter Group, we find it noteworthy that the company’s guiding belief—“Clothes and how they’re made can make a difference”—defines both its brand and its place in the world.

A case in point: Its stand on Turkmen cotton.

Each harvesting season, the company’s website notes, workers are forced by the Turkmenistan government to fulfill cotton picking quotas under brutal conditions—often with the help of their school-age children. The situation is no better in neighboring Uzbekistan, where forced and child labor are the rule.

Levi-Strauss is one of an elite group of clothing and textile companies to sign pledges to ensure that cotton—or any other staple, synthetic or natural—produced by forced labor doesn’t find its way into their products at any point in the supply chain. “Turkmenistan may represent only 2% of the world’s cotton exports, but the rampant human rights violations in their cotton production demand our attention,” the company says.

Over the past year, Levi Strauss’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic has similarly been shaped by a commitment to social justice. Announcing a $3 million funding initiative for COVID relief, the Levi Strauss Foundation underscored that the money would be earmarked for nonprofits working to serve underserved and at-risk groups in their communities “and championing marginalized people who feel the deepest impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.”

“For 65 years, the Foundation’s mission has been to advance the human rights and well-being of underserved people in places where Levi Strauss has a business presence,” says Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Sey. In the time of COVID, she adds, that mission doesn’t change. “It just intensifies.”

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About Brand Acts of Kindness® 

Brand Acts of Kindness® is a series from Carpenter Group that spotlights companies across industries that are living their brand values in addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the world today.

The series initially headlined companies assisting healthcare workers and first responders, as well as communities, businesses and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also highlight brands taking the lead in supporting social and racial justice, LGBTQ rights, sustainability and the environment. Their stories show how innovation, resolve and action, built on a solid value proposition, can both strengthen a brand and help create a better world.

About Carpenter Group

Carpenter Group is an independent, woman-owned strategic branding, messaging and marketing communications firm that has delivered results-driven solutions to financial, professional services and technology firms for 30+ years.

Our broad cross-discipline experience enables us to craft brand messaging and carry it through to the channels that most effectively connect with our clients’ target audience, from editorial content to advertising to event marketing and more.