The deadly fashion industry: Will Levi’s take action or keep its head in the sand?

April 26, 2018

Does Levi Strauss & Co. have blood on its hands? That’s the question behind’s new report released this week.

“Too Deadly To Wear: Levi’s Pollution, the Booming Fashion Industry, and its Role in Deaths from Air Pollution and Climate Change” uncovers the fashion industry’s — and specifically Levi’s —  outsized role in the deadly impacts of climate change and air pollution across the globe. Read the report here:

Among the report’s findings:

  • Fashion kills: As the source of some 8% of global climate pollution, the fashion industry is responsible for as many as 38,000 climate change deaths a year. Levi’s climate pollution can be correlated with as many as 31 climate change deaths a year.* 

  • Levi’s is a major climate polluter: Levi’s annual climate pollution is vast — equal to that of 1.1 million cars. Many of Levi’s factories are located in pollution hot spots in China.

  • Levi’s ignores its global pollution: 99% of Levi’s climate pollution comes from its supply chain. Yet the company has no meaningful policy to address these impacts.

  • Real climate action is needed: Levi’s can be a leader, starting with a commitment to meet or beat the targets of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change.

But, why Levi’s?

Levi’s has been talking about the importance of climate action for years, but continues to drag its feet. For example, the company has pledged to reduce emissions and add renewables in a portion of its direct operations — which make up a dismal 1% of its total climate pollution footprint.

Making that kind of meaningless commitment publicly demonstrates that Levi’s is attempting to greenwash its climate impacts — and it is worse than doing nothing. Levi’s could eliminate the climate pollution in all of its direct operations — and 99% of their impact would remain. 

Meanwhile Levi’s supply chain is fossil-fuel intensive. Other fashion companies are larger, but data indicates that pound for pound, Levi’s is an egregious polluter. 

With its financial strength, global brand recognition, and stated (and stated and stated) commitment to environmental sustainability, Levi’s is positioned to lead the fashion industry into ambitious climate action. 

And, why now?

There is no time to wait for climate action. Last year, Levi’s home state of California witnessed this firsthand with wildfires, floods, mudslides, and drought. This should be a wake up call.

Climate action at the national level is going backwards. Levi’s own leadership advocates for environmental responsibility — its CEO blogs about the urgency of climate change and has called on President Trump to stay in the UN Paris Agreement on climate change.

CEO Chip Bergh needs to clean up Levi’s before he can credibly ask the Trump Administration or anyone else to take action on the climate.’s “Too Deadly To Wear” report outlines what Levi’s can do beyond this talk, and how the iconic company can catalyze industry-wide change on climate. A comprehensive plan that transitions into renewable energy and cuts emission across its supply chain will move Levi’s into true climate leadership.

Levi’s has a simple choice.

Levi’s has been talking about the threat of climate change for years. Last year, the company calculated its own climate footprint — a massive one at that. And now, with the “Too Deadly To Wear” report, Levi’s has new data on the tragic human cost of its global air and climate pollution.

Beyond the specific data in this report, “Too Deadly To Wear” is really about a choice.

Will Levi’s keep its head buried in the sand? Will the company work to change the subject or deny its own responsibility? Will it declare change is too hard? Or, will Levi’s rise to the challenge? Will America’s most iconic clothing company take a real leadership role? 

There is no time to waste — Levi’s must act now and help guide the fashion industry out of its role in devastating climate change and the loss of human life, and into climate sustainability.

Learn more about’s “Too Dirty to Wear” campaign calling on Levi’s to be a fashion industry leader in protecting our climate by reducing pollution and transitioning to renewable energy in its supply chain: