Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) announced today that it will require its global supply chain to support programs for their workers that align with UN Millennium Development Goals.
The company says its new Terms of Engagement will go beyond mere "do no harm" compliance to actually improve the lives of workers in factories around the world.
The UN Millennium Development Goals include improving maternal and child health; combating HIV/AIDs, and other diseases; promoting gender equality and empowering women; eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; and ensuring environmental sustainability.
In a speech delivered today at the CERES annual conference, LS&Co. CEO and President John Anderson said: "We are proposing a new apparel industry standard of social, economic, and environmental sustainability that focuses on improving workers' lives. If our ultimate goal is to improve not just factory conditions, but to make a material difference to the people and communities in our supply chain, then we need a more holistic approach and a more human perspective."
The speech comes 20 years after Levi Strauss & Co. announced a Terms of Engagement that set a new standard of compliance for vendor factories in the apparel industry. The TOE required manufacturing factories to follow health, safety and environmental standards set by Levi Strauss & Co. This standard - considered pioneering at the time - rapidly became the norm for most companies with a global supply chain.
Anderson argued that companies need to do more to create progress and move the industry forward: "Compliance has us focused on two things: a legalistic standard of "do no harm" and factory-level monitoring and reporting," said Anderson. "While we've made progress in a number of areas over twenty years, the hard truth is that we haven't made enough progress on improving the everyday lives of the people who make our products."
LS& Co. committed to a nine-month advisory process with NGOs, other brands, labor unions and suppliers around the world. At the end of the process, the company will release a white paper for public comment and then will begin implementing the new terms of engagement with suppliers in May 2012.
The company argued that a new terms of engagement is not only the right thing to do, but is good for business: "We are sure that if companies focus not just on the minimum legal requirements, but on a broader vision of social, economic, and environmental sustainability, they will be rewarded," said Anderson.