Marking the 25th anniversary of its industry-changing supplier code of conduct, called Terms of Engagement, Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) announced a new commitment to expand the company’s pioneering Worker Wellbeing initiative – both within and outside the company. By 2025, the company aims to:
- Expand Worker Wellbeing to reach more than 300,000 workers;
- Implement the program with all strategic vendors;
- Produce more than 80 percent of its product volume in Worker Wellbeing factories.
In addition to these targets, the company announced it will share with the industry its Worker Wellbeing best practices, tools and standards in a move to exponentially increase the reach and impact of the program. Open-sourcing best practices in this way has proven effective in driving outsized impact and system-level change.
“Our intent for the Worker Wellbeing initiative is to continue to serve as a catalyst to transform the apparel industry by setting a new standard for valuing and investing in apparel workers’ lives,” said Chip Bergh, president and CEO. “We have seen that when we lead, others follow. From our Terms of Engagement in 1991, to sharing our chemical management system with other brands, to open-sourcing our Water<Less finishing techniques earlier this year, LS&Co. can influence the way other companies do business and create a larger impact by sharing how we do business.”
Worker Wellbeing represents a groundbreaking shift in how companies address the needs of workers who make their products. Launched in 2011, the initiative has created proven, sustainable business and social benefits at all levels of the supply chain, including a demonstrated 4:1 return on investment for some programs. Through this initiative, LS&Co. has been able to show suppliers that healthy, financially literate workers are more productive, which contributes to the bottom line through reduced absenteeism and higher retention rates. These results spur investment in programs from suppliers themselves, which has taken Worker Wellbeing beyond LS&Co.’s initial targets.
“Listening to workers first is a critical component to the success of Worker Well-being,” Michael Kobori, VP of sustainability at LS&Co, said in a recent blog post. “Especially as a company that operates in multiple countries. The needs of workers in Sri Lanka may be vastly different than those in Mexico. We want to ensure that the programs we are supporting are valuable. There is no one-size-fits-all in our supply chain.”
LS&Co. is also taking measurement a step further by getting to the core of what “Wellbeing” truly means to workers. Through a grant from the Levi Strauss Foundation, Harvard’s Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) program, based at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, will develop a universal Worker Wellbeing measurement toolkit for the wider manufacturing industry. The toolkit is meant to provide suppliers with a dashboard to track key performance indicators around workers’ overall levels of engagement, health and Wellbeing beyond typical business measures. This will allow suppliers to better understand and analyze the impact of Wellbeing on their workers and business in real-time.
This dashboard tool will also be shared publicly.
“Building a strategy and tool for suppliers to understand and actively monitor worker Wellbeing represents a new chapter for the apparel industry,” said Eileen McNeely, Co-Director of SHINE. “The uptake of the Wellbeing strategy starts with the vision, moves with the metrics and sustains overtime with proof that businesses, workers, families and communities benefit from enhanced Wellbeing. We see a huge potential for this approach to create positive social impact and the next industry standard.”
LS&Co’s Worker Wellbeing program takes a unique approach that is rooted in the workers’ self-identified needs, first and foremost. Before implementing any programs or solutions, LS&Co. starts by surveying factory workers to hear firsthand what they need to become more engaged, healthy and productive employees. Only then, LS&Co. and its vendors partner with local and national non-profits and NGOs to implement programs to meet the needs of workers. Programs generally focus on financial empowerment, health and family Wellbeing and equality and acceptance, but are flexible to workers’ changing needs.
LS&Co. will share its Worker Wellbeing Guidebook, which contains all the tools and materials needed for companies to implement programs in their own supply chains, including the initial worker needs survey. The company will also share key results from countries it has implemented programs in to provide proof points.