Key Findings

The Fashion Industry’s Pollution Is DEADLY:

  • Fashion companies have played a contributing role in climate change’s deadly impact around the globe; the industry is the source of some 8% of global climate pollution. [1]The Measuring Fashion report calculated the that fashion industry’s climate pollution represents an estimated 8.1% of total global emissions in 2016. Given the uncertainties, the industry’s range of climate pollution is 5% to 10% of global emissions. See: Quantis and ClimateWorks Foundation, Measuring Fashion: Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries study, February 2018, page 18, https://quantis-intl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/measuringfashion_globalimpactstudy_full-report_quantis_cwf_2018a.pdf
  • Taking its current level of climate pollution as a starting point, the fashion industry is responsible for as many as 38,000 deaths a year from the impacts of climate change around the globe. The majority of people dying from the impacts of climate change are children in developing countries.
  • In 2016, the fashion industry caused an astounding 2,764,000 additional premature deaths or disabilities as a direct result of toxic pollution from its facilities and coal-fired plants powering them.

 

Levi’s Climate Action to Date Has Been Limited:

UPDATE: On 31 July, 2018, Levi’s made a commitment to reduce 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain by 2025, setting a new standard on climate commitments in the apparel industry. The contents of this report have been updated to reflect Levi’s commitment.

Levi’s Climate and Air Pollution Impacts Are Vast:

  • Levi’s annual climate pollution is vastequal to that of 1.1 million cars, or more than 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases emissions, according to the company’s own disclosures.
  • 99% of Levi’s climate pollution is from its supply chain
  • Many of Levi’s factories are located in pollution hot spots. [2]The terms “Levi’s factories” and “Levi’s operations” encompass all facilities that produce Levi’s products, regardless of Levi’s direct ownership or not.
  • Levi’s pollution contributes to climate change deaths, and the company has taken minimal action to end this deadly impact.
  • Taking the company’s climate pollution volume as an approximate indicator of its percentage representation within the industry, Levi’s operations can be correlated with up to 2,250 deaths or disabilities in 2016more than six additional people harmed each day—as a direct result of toxic pollution from its facilities and coal-fired plants powering them. [3]See the section on “Levi’s Role” for a complete discussion of this impact and citations.
  • Levi’s climate pollution can be correlated with as many as 31 additional deaths a year from the impacts of climate change. That is an approximation of one death every 12 days [4]This calculation utilizes current annual climate pollution levels as a closest available proxy to a company’s proportional responsibility in climate change deaths. See additional information on this issue in the body of the report., if current climate pollution levels are taken as a closest available proxy to a company’s proportional responsibility in climate change deaths around the globe. The majority of people dying from the impacts of climate change are children in developing countries.

 

Fashion Companies Can Lead the Industry out of Climate Pollution

In the original version of this report, we asked Levi’s to make a leadership-level climate commitment that:

  • Met or beat the targets of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change—which Levi’s publicly supports—with a 40% absolute reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 for its full supply chain.
  • Transitioned its entire supply chain to renewable energy, with a minimum of 50% of energy sourced through renewables by 2035.
  • Committed to a long-term carbon emission reduction of at least 66% by 2050. [5]Recent assessment indicate that deeper, long-term cuts in climate emissions (an 80% reduction by 2050) by the industry may be necessary within a science-based approach that keeps the planet’s warming well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as affirmed in the UN Paris Agreement on climate change. See: Quantis, Measuring Fashion: Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries study, February 2018, page 42. https://quantis-intl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/measuringfashion_globalimpactstudy_full-report_quantis_cwf_2018a.pdf
  • Turned Levi's into a vocal advocate for full climate action within the industry, working to bring other big brands and their supply chains on board.
  • On July 31st 2018, Levi’s made a commitment to: 
    • Meet or beat the targets of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change--which Levi’s publicly supports--with a 40% absolute reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 for its full supply chain

 

These pledges, which cover the 99% of Levi’s pollution that’s found in its supply chain, set a new standard for climate commitments in the apparel industry. While Levi’s still needs to establish longer term goals into 2050, including a commitment to transition entire its supply chains to renewable energy and an absolute carbon emission reduction of at least 66% by 2050, this step is commendable.

It will allow Levi’s to quickly reduce its carbon footprint in its entire supply chain, including its overseas factories, with adequate commitments that will help the company meet or beat the reduction standards laid out in the UN Paris Agreement on climate change. By reducing air pollution around its factories and helping slow climate change, this move from Levi’s will also literally save lives.

References   [ + ]

Back in 1853, amidst the boomtown days of the California’s Gold Rush, Levi Strauss & Co. invented the blue jean.

More than 160 years later, the industry trailblazer is still the world’s number one jean company. Known for its quality clothing, this iconic brand is made and sold around the globe.

In recent years, as interest in sustainability has grown, Levi’s has implemented several important environmental policies. The company was the first in the industry to establish global guidelines for water quality standards for its suppliers. It was also the first to provide financial incentives to upgrade environmental, health, safety and labor standards in developing countries.

In 2011, Levi’s launched the Water<Less™ process that reduces water usage in the garment finishing process by up to 96%. As a result, it has saved more than 1.8 billion liters of water. [1]Levi Strauss & Co, Sustainability—Introduction, http://levistrauss.com/sustainability/,[2]Levi Strauss & Co’s Climate Change Disclosure 2017, Carbon Disclosure Project, CC3.2a, http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2017-Carbon-Disclosure-Project-2016-Results.pdf The company has also implemented initial energy efficiency measures in its owned operations (offices, retail stores, distribution centers and manufacturing plants owned and operated by Levi’s) and integrated some renewable energy into its electricity mix.

These are all positive actions. However, despite the initiatives and the company’s overall “green” image, Levi’s is still a major air and climate polluter.

The company’s clothing is produced at hundreds of factories around the globe, many that run largely on coal and other fossil fuels. Fiber and cloth production, manufacturing and transport, packaging, retail and product use throughout Levi’s complex global supply chain produce a vast climate pollution footprint—now reaching that of some 1.1 million cars a year. [3]Levi Strauss & Co’s Climate Change Disclosure 2017, Carbon Disclosure Project, http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2017-Carbon-Disclosure-Project-2016-Results.pdf The sum of Levi’s Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions is more than 5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

In addition to accelerating climate change, dirty fuels used throughout Levi’s clothing manufacturing process create significant air pollution that endangers the health of local communities.

Levi’s complex global supply chain produces a vast climate pollution footprintnow reaching that of some 1 million cars a year.

 

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At a time when industry leaders around the globe are investing in breakthrough advances and transformational commitments to rein in the growing climate crisis, Levi’s has dragged its feet.

Until its recent announcement, the company has not addressed the magnitude of its climate pollution. Nor has the company stepped up to play a leadership role within the fashion industry—an industry that now produces an estimated 8.1% of global climate pollution each year.[4]Quantis and ClimateWorks Foundation, Measuring Fashion: Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries study, February 2018, page 18, https://quantis-intl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/measuringfashion_globalimpactstudy_full-report_quantis_cwf_2018a.pdf,[5]Measuring Fashion calculated the that fashion industry’s climate pollution represents an estimated 8.1% of total global emissions in 2016. Given uncertainties, the industry’s range of climate pollution is 5% to 10% of global emissions, according to Measuring Fashion, cited above, page 18. Levi’s has a crucial role to play, and now is the time for company to take the lead.

References   [ + ]

As the world’s largest jeans company, Levi’s has powered its growing, global clothing supply chain in large part with polluting fuels. Because of this, the company’s climate pollutionmade up of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that accumulate in Earth’s atmosphere and heat the planetis vast.

  • Levi’s products are made in more than 500 factories in nearly 40 countries [1]Levi Strauss & Co Factory List, September 2017, http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Levi-Strauss-Co-Factory-List-September-2017.pdf around the world, and the extensive use of dirty fossil fuels in this global supply chain produces air and climate pollution throughout.
  • Coal produces most of the electricity in Levi’s largest manufacturing locations, China and India. [2]“Levi’s factories” refers to facilities that manufacture Levi’s products. The company owns only a fraction of the facilities that produce its clothing.
  • Levi’s products are made in nearly 150 factories in China, where coal powers up to 70% of the electrical grid. [3]U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Chinese coal-fired electricity generation expected to flatten as mix shifts to renewables,” September 2, 2017, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=33092 And https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle
  • Levi’s products are made in more than 40 factories in India, where coal powers 75% of the electrical grid. [4]https://tradingeconomics.com/india/electricity-production-from-coal-sources-percent-of-total-wb-data.html,[5]Levi Strauss & Co Factory List, September 2017, http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Levi-Strauss-Co-Factory-List-September-2017.pdf
  • 99% of Levi’s climate pollution is from its supply chain, yet the company has no policy, nor taken any meaningful action, to address impacts outside of its owned operations. [6]Levi Strauss & Co’s Climate Change Disclosure 2017, Carbon Disclosure Project, section CC14.4b, http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2017-Carbon-Disclosure-Project-2016-Results.pdf  See paragraph including: “99% of our total GHG emissions came from Scope 3 categories,” with Scope 3 effectively correlating with the company’s supply chain.
  • Levi’s annual climate pollution is vastequal to that of 1.1 million cars, or more than 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases emissions, according to the company’s own disclosures. [7]Levi Strauss & Co’s Climate Change Disclosure 2017, Carbon Disclosure Project, http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2017-Carbon-Disclosure-Project-2016-Results.pdf The sum of Levi’s Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions is more than 5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.,[8]U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle,” https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle
  • A single pair of Levi’s 501 jeans creates the climate pollution equivalent of burning more than 21 pounds of coal in the production, manufacturing, transport and retail process, according to the company’s own report. [9]Levi Strauss & Co., The Life Cycle of a Jean, slide 17, http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Full-LCA-Results-Deck-FINAL.pdf This study commissioned by Levi’s calculated that the full life cycle of a pair of 501 jeans produces 33.4 kg of CO2e. This same study also show that manufacturing (including fiber and fabric production, sewing and packaging and transport) makes up 60% of the jean’s total GHG emission, or 20.0 kg CO2e. This converts to 21.9 lbs of coal burned, using the US EPA’s GHG calculator available here: https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator
  • Levi’s has grown its global businessand the resulting climate pollutionin recent years, successfully expanding its net sales by 20% from 2005 to 2017. [10]Statistica, “Net sales of Levi Strauss worldwide from 2005 to 2017 in billion U.S. dollars,” https://www.statista.com/statistics/268540/global-net-sales-of-levi-strauss/

 

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References   [ + ]

Consumers, media and nongovernmental organizations are increasingly aware of climate change and the role business can play in reducing its emissions.” — Levi’s website [1]Levi Strauss & Co., Climate Change Disclosure 2017, Carbon Disclosure Project, section CC5.1c, http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2017-Carbon-Disclosure-Project-2016-Results.pdf


When it comes to climate change talk, Levi’s has done its homework.
Its website, blog posts and social media posts all speak to climate change: “If left unchecked, large-scale climate change will have serious economic, social and environmental consequences…,” the company warns. [2]Levi Strauss & Co., “Sustainability-Planet: Climate Change,” http://levistrauss.com/sustainability/planet/climate-change/

To its credit, Levi’s has used its voice to support the U.S.’s continued participation in the UN Paris Agreement on climate change. The company is also a member of organizations that advocate for climate action, including the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy network, and it is participating in a program to reduce the environmental impact of six Chinese mills that supply Levi’s with cotton.

Levi’s is also taking action to clean up a small portion of its climate footprint. Within its owned operations (an estimated 1% of its total climate pollution according to its own documents), it is on track to reduce carbon emissions by 25% and use 20% renewable energy by 2020. Levi’s has also joined the Science Based Targets project. While an important step, it has yet to make any specific climate change commitment for its supply chain as part of SBT. [3]Levi Strauss & Co., “Sustainability-Planet: Climate Change,” http://levistrauss.com/sustainability/planet/climate-change/


These actions are all commendable, but address only a very, very small portion of Levi’s climate pollution—in fact only 1/4 of 1% of Levi's total footprint.

The company promised back in 2012 that “within our operations globally, we are committed to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases,” in practice, that has not happened. [4]Levi Strauss & Co., “2012 Climate Change Strategy,” Our Approach, page 4, http://levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2012-Climate-Change-Strategy.pdf To date, the company has taken no meaningful action and has only just made firm climate commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2025.

References   [ + ]