Levi Strauss and Co has committed to take climate change action by engaging its suppliers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40%. The path to making this commitment is an interesting and informative one. Thirty years ago, the company made a commitment to environmental stewardship. With that commitment brought innovation and new product lines. The focus on sustainability equipped them to grow the ability to address climate change in the way they do business. It helped that the CEO was interested in owning an industry leading position – climate action became the industry leading opportunity for the company.

What’s instructive about the company is that they piloted a program called PaCT which is their Partnership for Cleaner Textiles, an International Finance Corporation (IFC) program. The programs help suppliers assess onsite water and energy efficiency, opportunities for using renewables and recycling water and, more critically, provides access to low-interest loans which is weighted by the suppliers’ level of commitment to more socially and environmentally operations.

The other key to Levi Strauss’ commitment is the establishing of Science Based Targets which is a commitment to keep greenhouse gas emissions in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.

Many business executives still find themselves wondering, “Why do I need to pay attention to all this climate change stuff?” The short answer is based on the scientific predictions of sea level rise and catastrophic weather events. The emissions from human activity has increased exponentially which has unleashed a volume of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which is causing climates to get warmer. The projected heat trajectory will make the planet inhabitable for humans if left unchecked. We have been witnessing more and more severe storms, floods and fires that can be attributed to the warmer weather.

Levi Strauss has committed and evolved its sustainability programs over a thirty-year period so some executives may be at a loss of where to begin today. Business has a primary role to play in slowing, stopping and even reversing the effects of climate change. The Science Based Targets are a mechanism to help business reduce their emissions to support the reversal of climate effects. Levi Strauss & Co provides a good case study in how to evolve and advance programs.

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