Levi Strauss & Co. is marking the 25th anniversary of the publication of “Terms of Engagement,” its industry-defining supplier code of conduct, by pledging to expand its Worker Well-Being initiative to reach more than 300,000 workers in its vendor factories by 2025. Launched in 2011, the initiative helps suppliers roll out programs that address the most vital needs of their workers, including health, sanitation, equality, and financial literacy. By measuring the business and social impacts of this work, Levi’s says it has been able to show its vendors that healthy, financially literate workers are more productive, have lower rates of absenteeism, and are more likely to stay on the job. The palpable results—as much as a 4-to-1 return on investment in some cases—have led suppliers to invest even more money in the programs, according to the denim giant, taking Worker Well-Being “beyond [the brand’s] initial targets.”

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And just like it did with its H2O-sipping “Water<Less” technology, Levi’s says it will share its Worker Well-Being best practices, tools, and standards with the rest of the fashion industry in a bid to drive “outsized impact and system-level change.”

“Our intent for the Worker Well-Being 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,” Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss, said in a statement. “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.”


The Worker Well-Being differs from other approaches because it’s based on the workers’ specific, self-identified needs, Levi’s said.


Levi’s says that the company also wants to get to the “core” of what well-being means to workers. Through a grant from the Levi Strauss Foundation, Harvard University’s Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the School of Public Health will develop a universal Worker Well-Being measurement toolkit for suppliers to track key performance indicators around workers’ overall levels of engagement, health, and well-being “beyond typical business measures.”

Through a dashboard tool, suppliers will be able to better capture, in real time, the impact of well-being on their workers and their business.

This tool will also be shared publicly, Levi’s said.

“Building a strategy and tool for suppliers to understand and actively monitor worker well-being represents a new chapter for the apparel industry,” said Eileen McNeely, Co-Director of SHINE. “The uptake of the well-being strategy starts with the vision, moves with the metrics and sustains overtime with proof that businesses, workers, families and communities benefit from enhanced well-being. We see a huge potential for this approach to create positive social impact and the next industry standard.”

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The Worker Well-Being differs from other approaches because it’s based on the workers’ specific, self-identified needs, Levi’s said.

Things are set in motion by Levi’s, its vendors, and any nonprofit partners only after the workers have been surveyed, it said.

Beyond sharing its Worker Well-Being Guidebook, which contains everything companies need to implement similar programs in their supply chains, Levi’s has also committed itself to producing more than 80 percent of its product volume in Worker Well-Being factories by 2025.

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