Combining Success with Sustainability: A Lesson By The CEO of Levi’s

Ask any denim fanatic about their favorite pieces, and they’ll almost certainly mention their coveted pair of Levi’s. Unarguably, the company is among the most recognizable apparel manufacturers across the world, selling to over 110 countries. During a dark, dark time long ago when jeans were called “waist overalls”, only had one back pocket, and didn’t feature belt loops (if you’ve ever wondered what eradicated suspenders, that was it), Levi Strauss & Co. proved time and time again to be an innovative player in the fashion industry. Although their popularity is largely due to the fact that they were the first ever manufacturer of blue jeans, we also like to believe their sustainability efforts have something to do with it.

You know the drill; welcome to the part where we happily tell you that one of your favorite brands also happens to have some incredible commitments towards responsible business! In fact, LS&Co.’s latest vision has been to become the world’s most sustainable apparel company. As one of the few clothing manufacturers featured on Ethisphere’s 2017 Most Ethical Companies honorees, they’re not too far off. But, rather than just listing off their many efforts (all of which you can read about here), we’d instead like to highlight lessons learned from none other than Levi’s CEO, Chip Bergh.

A quick background on Bergh: he joined LS&Co. in 2011, after 28 years in brand management with Proctor & Gamble, where he led all their business in India, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Currently, not only is he CEO, but also LS&Co’s president and a member of their Board of Directors. Oh, and if ever you wanted to thank someone for leading the creation of the Swiffer, you can thank him.

So, how exactly does Chip Bergh help his company operate in such a way that combines both success and sustainability? “Profit through Principle” – a concept used often across all of Levi’s campaigns. Bergh recognizes that as a company, they exist to be profitable; but where they differ from other businesses is in the fact that they are guided entirely by their company principles. Said principles include their values, missions, and commitments towards sustainability. LS&Co. runs a non-profit organization, called the Levi Strauss Foundation. The non-profit has many programs that seek to advance the human right conditions of underserved individuals.

The company funds the foundation with a percentage of their profits. Thus, the more successful they are, the more they are able to give back to the community. This, coupled with their ongoing initiatives, – having to do with issues such as water conservation, climate change, and worker safety – ensures the company retains their principles, all the while remaining profitable. The other plus to such a way of conducting business is that, given millennials are drawn to companies that align with their personal values, LS&Co. is able to attract and retain a multitude of talent. Bergh believes that companies that focus solely on profits will struggle when it comes to recruiting, considering that few individuals would opt to work for a company that does not align with their values. Given the company has sales of approximately $5 billion, operations in more than 2,800 retail stores, and 50,000 wholesale doors worldwide, we’d say that LS&Co. has certainly mastered the art of combining success and sustainability.

Ultimately, by allowing their principles to become the driving factor behind company decisions, Levi has managed to remain an iconic brand that actively gives back to the community. Can the company’s success inspire other large businesses to operate in the same manner? We’ve got our fingers crossed.

Information gathered from: Forbes

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