Why are Levi's Too Dirty to Wear?

America’s iconic jeans are made with coal and other fossil fuels that drive climate change.

Levi’s invented blue jeans more than 160 years ago, trailblazing a new industry. Since then, the company has been known for its quality clothing and has taken some important steps towards sustainability. 

But when it comes to our climate, Levi’s is a significant polluter. Levi’s clothing is made at hundreds of factories around the globe, many that run largely on coal and other fossil fuels. In addition to accelerating climate change, dirty fuels create significant air pollution that endangers the health of local communities in dozens of countries. 

Levi’s can take the courageous next step to become a climate leader, driving the apparel industry towards sustainability. Currently, the company lags behind other major U.S. corporations. Companies such as Apple and Mars have made groundbreaking climate commitments and are transitioning their supply chains away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy. 

Levis can become part of the solution by catalyzing the demand for renewable energy in China, India and other supplying countries and accelerating the shift away from coal. 

While Levi’s has made changes in home operations, the company has no firm climate commitment for up to 90% their climate pollution that comes from the company’s supply chain. (source)  Levi’s current climate initiatives include reducing emissions by 25% and switching to 20% renewable energy by 2020 in their direct operations. The company also announced earlier this year that it is joining the Science Based Targets process. These measures are important steps, but much greater action is necessary. 

We need exceptional leadership by Levi’s to guide the industry to transition out dirty fuels and drive renewable energy solutions in supplying countries.

“We believe that climate change is one of the most important issues of our time.”
”We have never shied away from standing up for what we believe is right.”
--Levi Strauss & Co. (source)

A look at Levi’s climate impact

  • Coal is the top source of electricity in Levi’s main supplying countries. Levi’s products are made in 170 factories in China where coal powers 70% of the electrical grid (source) and 44 factories in India where coal powers 75% of the electrical grid. (source and source
  • Levi’s annual climate pollution is vast--equal to that of 1.1 million cars [1], or more than 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases emissions according to the company’s own disclosures. (source and source)
  • Manufacturing a single pair of Levi’s 501 jeans produces the climate pollution equivalent of burning 21 pounds of coal. (source and conversion source) [2]

This industry's climate impact

  • Recent studies show that the industry is responsible for up to 5.4% of all climate emissions globally when the full supply chain is considered. (source)
  • This means that if the apparel industry were a nation, it would be the fifth largest climate polluter on the planet and produces more climate pollution each year than the country of Russia. (source)
  • More than 300,000 people are now dying every year from the impacts of climate change, and 325 million people are significantly affected. (source)

Industry growth

  • The number of garments produced annually has more than doubled since 2000. (source)
  • The industry would be the world’s seventh largest economy if ranked alongside countries’ GDP. (source)
  • Levi’s earned some $300 million in profit in 2016. (source)

Ask Levi’s to take a lead the apparel industry to climate protection:

  1. Make a leadership-level climate commitment for their full supply chain to meet or beat the Paris Agreement on climate change (30-40% absolute reduction in total GHGs by 2025).
  2. Transition their entire supply chain to renewable energy, with a minimum of 50% of energy sourced through renewables by 2035.
  3. Commit to a long-term carbon emission reduction target of 2/3 by 2050 for their entire supply chain.

[1] Visit cdp.net and create login to access Levi Strauss & Co.’s 2017 Climate Change disclosure. 
[2] A study commissioned by Levi’s calculates that the full life cycle of a pair of 501 jeans produces 33.4 kg of CO2e. (source, page 17) 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 EPA’s calculator.