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SAN FRANCISCO – Levi Strauss has announced a new water strategy with a goal of reducing cumulative water use for denim manufacturing at its suppliers by 50 per cent in water-stressed areas by 2025. The business claimed the move is part of an “evolution in thinking around water use in a global supply chain, particularly in areas already facing water stress.” The strategy draws on the latest water science and data, consultations with leading water experts, and the company’s own water management expertise.

“We’re working off the WRI map of water stress, and where it lines up with our sourcing locations, that’s where the focus will be,” the company told Apparel Insider. “In terms of country’s facing high levels of water stress, yes, India and Pakistan, also Bangladesh, Mexico, South Africa, and anywhere that water stress is rising or threatening to rise as an issue.”

The company also told us efforts to communicate these issues to end consumers will be stepped up moving forwards.

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The strategy differs markedly in that it contextualises the water issue, acknowledging that “saving a litre of water where it is plentiful, while important, is not as critical as saving a lite where water is scarce.” Thus Levi’s will shift from a singular one-size-fits-all approach to a more responsive, contextual approach to water management. The strategy is also designed to increase access to clean, safe drinking water for communities in sourcing locations – and to drive collective action that delivers change for surrounding communities and watersheds as well.  

Levi’s said it will work with key suppliers that represent 80 per cent of total product volume to set and achieve specific water use targets for factories where Levi’s, Dockers, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co, and Denizen products are made or finished. The targets will be based on the water context at the local level; facilities located in more highly-stressed countries will have more stringent target levels than facilities in countries facing less water stress.

Levi’s also said it will help all its key suppliers achieve the Water<Less designation by 2025 utilising tools and programs such as existing Water<Less techniques, LS&Co.’s collaboration with the Apparel Impact Institute’s Clean by Design program, and its partnership with the International Finance Corporation’s Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT), which provides expert guidance on water management and low-cost financing for upgrades that improve efficiency and performance.

Asked about costs, Levi’s told us: “Direct costs for us are minimal, in line with our investment in programs like the IFC PaCT program, which we’re expanding to our top 42 suppliers and which will help us meet both our water targets and the climate targets we announced last year. Some suppliers will have costs, but they will also benefit from the resultant savings. Water<Less, for example, has shown to save suppliers up to 5 cents per garment. And when they can cut energy and water use, they cut costs as well.”

Asked whether the new strategy could increase the price of a pair of jeans, it told Apparel Insider: “It should not increase consumer costs. And we have been trying to talk to consumers in different ways about resource management for some time now, from the Care Tag for the Planet sewn in to all our jeans to our recycling programs to other public campaigns. That work will continue and grow and start showing up more prominently in stores in the coming months/years.”

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