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Levi Strauss & Co Sponsored Series

Sustainably Attired

Levi’s Employees Are Science Teachers for a Day

science class

Ask anyone who has children or has spent time around young ones, and they’ll tell you that kids love to remember random facts. That’s why it’s perfect that Levis Strauss & Co. has partnered with Project WET Foundation to develop custom water education curriculum and train Levi’s employees to teach young students about water conservation – a pilot program which employee volunteers kicked off last week as part of the company’s Community Day.

Called “water ambassadors,” Levi’s employees from San Francisco, Shanghai and Singapore were trained by Project WET to go into classrooms and teach students around the world about their water footprints, all while promoting water literacy and awareness.

Through a series of interactive lessons, students learned facts – such as the number of liters used to grow cotton (2,565 liters), the percentage of Earth’s surface covered by water (71 percent) and the amount of water on the planet that is actually potable fresh water (0.003 percent) – and were given handouts to learn more about the lifecycle of a jean and how to conserve water at home.

“As a company, water is a big priority for us,” said Michael Kobori, VP of sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co. “Bringing water conservation and sustainability into the classroom is a natural extension of our company’s focus on water. This [program] gets young people to be more aware of water issues and is also a way to activate our employee base.”

The LS&Co. Water Ambassador program – a stellar model for the intersection between sustainability, employee engagement and consumer education – is just the latest example of the company’s proactive approach to promoting water conservation.

Teaching water stewardship

The company's water education efforts go far beyond the classroom. In 2011, Levi’s launched its Water<Less jean collection, a line of products that uses 96 percent less water in the finishing process and has helped the company save 1 billion liters of water to date. Through its partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative, the company is also promoting water conservation, reduction in pesticide use and improved child labor practices within the cotton industry.

With the new Water Ambassador employee volunteer program, Levi Strauss is bringing water conservation education to the next generation.

“Kids are the ones who are going to make the decisions about how our water is managed in the future,” said Morgan Close, international program manager at Project WET. “Levi’s has so many employees around the world ... Now they can teach kids how to be water stewards, and the kids can take what they learn and teach others. Kids can become change agents and be the catalyst to make changes at home.”

Consumer education and engagement

The drive to teach kids about water issues is part of the company’s larger goal to educate consumers about their role in creating a product's ecological footprint. According to the company's lifecycle assessment, consumer use accounts for about 23 percent of the total water used over the lifetime of a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans.

To raise consumer awareness and inspire water conservation, in 2009 Levi Strauss added a “Care Tag for Our Planet” to its products, and last year CEO Chip Bergh made headlines when he encouraged consumers to stop washing their jeans – a practice that has been further promoted with the company’s #WashLessPledge campaign and online LCA Quiz.

A culture of giving back

Beyond highlighting Levi Strauss’ focus on water conservation, the company’s Water Ambassador program also underlines the company’s deep-seated commitment to community involvement.

This year’s Community Day marked the 15th anniversary of the company’s annual global day of service, which enlisted participation from other organizations such as the Waterkeeper Alliance, and also gave employees the opportunity to build bicycles, beautify parks and paint schoolyards. In total, Levi Strauss employees in 57 countries volunteered over a year’s worth of volunteer time on that day alone.

All that volunteering goes to show that, as the company puts it, giving back never goes out of style.

Check out the infographic below for more information about Levi Strauss' Community Day impact:

Image credit: Pexels

Nayelli Gonzalez headshot

Nayelli is the Founder & CEO of CreatorsCircle, a resource hub that connects diverse youth with opportunities to create a life of purpose and impact. A trained journalist with an MBA, she also keeps the pulse on sustainable business and social impact trends and has covered these topics for a variety of publications over the past 15 years. She’s a systems thinker who loves to learn, share knowledge and help others connect the dots. 

Read more stories by Nayelli Gonzalez