Levi’s introduces Waterless Jeans
Designing Sustainable Competitive Advantage
By Alexandra Bocon
Issue 7 Spring 2011
The Levi’s Brand has made huge strides towards significantly reducing the amount of water used in the manufacturing process of jeans. The Water<Less collection, being released in the infamous 501, 511 and 514 styles, reduces water consumption by an average of 28% and up to 96% for some new products within the Levi’s line. In contrast to this effort the average pair of jeans uses 42 liters of water in the finishing process alone. In most manufacturing processes, jeans are washed in industrial washing machines between two and ten times during the finishing process in order to achieve that “worn in distressed” look that is so popular.
To achieve the Water<Less collection, Levi’s Brand decided to design three simple steps. First, combine multiple wet washing machine cycle processes into a single wet process, incorporate ozone processing into garment washing, and finally, remove the water from the stone washing process where just stones are needed. With the release of the Water<Less collection currently in stores, Levi’s Brand estimates that by spring it will have over 1.5 million pairs of Water<Less jeans for sale leading to 16 million gallons of water saved.
In addition to saving millions of gallons of water for the planet, the company’s changes are also projected to save suppliers money as well. By designing a system using water energy costs decrease, thus saving suppliers money in their monthly utility bills.
The Water<Less collection is just one way in which the Levi’s Brand is using strategic design to reduce their environmental impact. According to Levi Strauss research, the largest water impact is in the cotton growing process. In reaction Levi’s has begun to support their suppliers in discovering more sustainable ways to grow cotton as well as monitoring how suppliers use water in their manufacturing processes in an attempt to create a sustainable competitive advantage for Levi’s.