The denim giant said Wednesday that it has created the LS&Co. Collaboratory, an annual fellowship program for socially and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs who see design and sustainability as inextricably linked and are working to create a more sustainable apparel industry.
With a curriculum designed by the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, Levi’s said this fellowship program will bring together innovators, designers and bold thinkers who are working to advance sustainability in the apparel industry. The fellows will have the opportunity to work at LS&Co.’s Eureka Innovation Lab in San Fransisco.
“As an industry, we need to make sustainability a top priority and this means coming together to tackle the big social and environmental issues of our time,” said Chip Bergh, president and chief executive officer of Levi Strauss. “The LS&Co. Collaboratory embeds the principles we’ve followed over the last 163 years to help foster the next generation of designers and entrepreneurs so that together we can build an apparel industry that restores the environment and protects our most vital resources.”
Each year, the LS&Co. Collaboratory will focus on a specific social or environmental issue facing the industry, such as textile waste, water shortages or workers’ rights. On the heels of LS&Co.’s public release of its Water<Less techniques in March, the initial fellowship program will target entrepreneurs who are interested in developing new technologies and methodologies to understand and reduce their water footprint, the company said.
Business and social entrepreneurs from around the world will be invited to attend an immersive workshop at LS&Co.’s Eureka Innovation Lab, where as fellows they will work alongside established leaders in design, innovation and sustainability to accelerate their water sustainability ideas. In addition to the workshop, fellows may receive up to $50,000 in funding to implement their solutions.
A Levi’s spokeswoman said the company is committed to giving five to 10 fellows up to $50,000 each to implement water-use solutions for their organizations, up to $500,000.
The Collaboratory curriculum was developed in partnership with the Aspen Institute. The program design was developed in partnership with Good Corps, Good Worldwide Inc.’s strategy and design team that partners with organizations to develop and implement initiatives and calls to action to create social impact.
“Water is a critical resource, not only for the apparel industry, but for our planet and society as a whole,” said Nancy McGaw, deputy director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, based in Washington, D.C. “It is critical that the non-profit and private sector come together to create impactful and lasting change across the industry. With LS&Co., we are setting the stage for a new generation of sustainably minded apparel leaders who will define the new industry standard.”
The program is open to leaders of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Applications are now open and the 2016 fellows will be revealed later this summer.