In an ongoing effort to remove harmful chemicals from its supply chain, Levi Strauss & Co. announced yesterday that it will push its suppliers to avoid petroleum-based materials. The denim retailer is instead opting for materials made using natural resources, including bacteria, fungus, yeast and methane gas.
The move is an extension of the company’s restricted substances list, the first of its kind in the fashion industry, which launched in 2000 and is updating regularly in an effort to protect consumers and factory workers. Levi’s is taking a cue from the European Union, which currently restricts more than 1,000 chemicals from clothing production. Its rules are in sharp contrast to the U.S., which regulates just 50 chemicals.
Obviously, the transition is also a response to growing consumer concern over chemicals. Several U.S. companies currently use harmful toxic chemicals like perfluorochemicals, phthalates and azo dyes, which in addition to having potentially harmful impacts on humans, can cause environmental damage through emissions and water runoff.
Levi’s is also an active member of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals program, a collaboration of industry partners working on strategies to diminish chemical waste. The participating brands, including Nike, H&M and Gap, are focused on finding solutions to permanently remove toxic materials from their supply chains. Levi’s itself aims to achieve zero hazardous chemical waste by 2020.
Beyond environmental efforts, Levi’s has also been striving to increase transparency and improve worker well-being programs. Just last month, it announced that it would be piloting its employee engagement program to 12 new countries, hoping to reach a total of 97,500 employees, up from the 29,500 that had previously been impacted by the program.
“We have the power to steer some really big boats in this industry, as well as small startups and innovative smaller companies that have a vision for a sustainable future,” Paul Dillinger, vp and head of global product innovation at Levi’s, told Glossy in October.