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Levi’s, Greenpeace Agree on Toxins

Jeans producer will increase transparency and speed up PFC phaseout.

Levi Strauss & Co. said it will accelerate its detoxification timetable and provide greater transparency in its supply chain to settle recent differences with Greenpeace International.

This story first appeared in the December 14, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

According to an agreement reached between the parties late Wednesday, Levi’s will require, and publicly disclose, information on wastewater discharge from 40 suppliers in Mexico, China and other markets by the end of 2013, with disclosures for 15 of these producers initiated by June of next year. Several of these manufacturers operate multiple facilities. This represents an expansion of Levi’s earlier plan to initiate programs with 10 suppliers.

 

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Levi’s also agreed to phase out all production of perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, which provide characteristics such as breathability and stain resistance to fabrics, by the end of 2015, six months ahead of a previous timetable.

“This challenge is significant,” said David Love, Levi’s chief supply chain officer, “considering there are currently no equally effective alternatives to PFCs.”

Greenpeace officials acknowledged Levi’s had earlier beefed up enforcement of its ban on alkylphenol ethoxylates, or APEOs, which are used in some fabric detergents.

The agreement follows a series of protests against the denim and sportswear giant, including one Wednesday at the company’s San Francisco headquarters, and the disclosure on Dec. 5 of Greenpeace’s report “Toxic Threads: Under Wraps,” alleging the dumping of industrial wastewater by Mexico’s Kaltex and Lavamex, suppliers to Levi’s, as well as Calvin Klein, Guess, Gap, Wal-Mart and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

Levi’s earlier this year signed on to the Joint Roadmap for Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, or ZDHC, an industrywide effort to eliminate toxic emissions by 2020. According to John Deans, Greenpeace toxics campaigner, six other signatories to the ZDHC agreement — Nike, Adidas, Puma, C&A, H&M and Li-Ning — have reached separate agreements with Greenpeace in its “detox” campaign, as have four firms not yet listed as being involved with ZDHC.

Deans said ZDHC is “a start, but the speed limit is too low. We’re looking for other companies — like Calvin Klein, Gap and Victoria’s Secret — to make a commitment to move quickly and aggressively.”

Levi’s Love noted the company’s involvement in sustainability, including its early commitment to wastewater standards comparable to those set by the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. “These additional commitments and our work with other companies in the Zero Discharge Roadmap are going to spearhead new thinking and innovation that will help us better serve our consumers and the communities where we do business,” Love said Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Levi’s said Harmit Singh has been appointed executive vice president and chief financial officer, effective Jan. 16.

Singh succeeds Blake Jorgensen, who left the firm in August to join Electronic Arts in the same post. Kevin Wilson, who had served as interim cfo since Jorgensen’s departure, will resume his role as vice president of finance for commercial operations in the Americas.