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Treading Lightly on Water


Bondi Icebergs, Harold Holt in Melbourne, Valley Pool in Brisbane, Beatty Park in Perth and the South Australian Aquatic Centre. For those who don’t regularly fly around the country testing out local pools, they are Australia’s five Olympic size swimming pools. Pour all those five pools together and you’ll just scratch the surface of the amount of water Levi’s is saving with our innovative recycled water programs.

Smoggy Beijing might be the first image that comes to mind when you think of Chinese environmental problems. But, water security is the more pressing issue. China is naturally dry and has just come out of a severe drought – now try to provide water for consumption and crops for 1.3 billion people and you start to get a snapshot of the problem.

It’s not news that China is the world’s largest textile and garment manufacturer. Making these products is water intensive and the post production waste gets poured back into rivers and often contains a lot of chemicals. There is even a saying in China that you know the colour of the next season in fashion based on the colour of the rivers.

This is why at Levi’s we are enacting change. We like to look at what’s possible and not at limitations, and that focus means we are pioneers in sustainable clothes manufacturing. Ten years ago we started taking steps to clean up the waterways. We introduced compulsory guidelines for all our manufacturers so that wastewater must be treated and cleaned before it leaves the factory.

In 2007 we examined every stage of the creation of a pair of classic 501s. We wanted to understand how each stage of production impacted on the environment. Our innovative designers came up with ways to eliminate 96% of the water used in the finishing process. Three years ago those ideas were put into practice with the adoption of Water

Not content, we went even further. The water in those five Olympic swimming pools (12 million litres) – that’s how much we saved recently when we worked with a Chinese supplier to make 100 000 pairs of jeans using entirely recycled water. We are proud that the factory in China is also using that recycled water system with other brands. The more companies that commit to saving scarce resources, the better for the whole planet. And as to the colour of our Levi’s next season? It’s all clear…