After recently coming under fire for using potentially dangerous chemicals in its production process, denim giant Levi Strauss has committed to taking such compounds out of its supply chain. In recent months the company has been criticized by environmental group Greenpeace for including phthalates in its manufacturing processes, as such chemicals have been associated with developmental problems and cancer. The report also slammed the company's use of nonylphenol ethoxylates, compounds known to cause harm to aquatic creatures, and contamination of local water sources.
Greenpeace's report on the use of such products sparked alarm with consumers, and Levi's took notice. The company recently committed to eliminating the use of the chemicals from its supply chain, and will prevent their use in production by July 2016. It aims to completely stop releasing them into the environment during manufacturing processes by 2020, making it one of the largest clothing companies to pledge it will be toxin free.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Levi Strauss is one of 11 companies to have signed up for Greenpeace's Detox campaign, which aims to draw attention to sustainability and limiting the use of hazardous chemicals.
Supply chain changes coming
Taking these steps results in large changes for the company's supply chain, not merely the manufacturing end. As the chemicals make Levi's denim more waterproof, stain resistant and breathable, it will need to invest in developing alternatives that will provide consumers with the same properties without the toxicity. Once those other options are decided, the company will need to determine how it will work them into its current procurement policies and conduct research to learn if it is possible to implement a strategic sourcing strategy for the necessary materials.
If Levi's wants to ensure its contracted manufacturers also abide by the new standards, it will need to develop a set of regulations and regularly train and audit its suppliers to guarantee compliance throughout its far-reaching supply chain.
This is not the only chain Levi's has made to its supply chain in recent months. In late 2012, the company committed to creating less waste, and unveiled its Waste < Less denim collection in October. The jeans are a minimum of 20 percent recycled plastic, a step the company is taking to reduce waste, address resource scarcity and promote environmental sustainability.