In Our Jeans: Giving Back

Levi Strauss & Co.
January 29, 2014

There’s something particularly cool about working at a company where your colleagues care — not just about their work, but also about the world.

It makes sense that you’d find such folks at Levi Strauss & Co. After all, our founder, Levi Strauss, set the example back when the company was just starting. In 1854, just a year after arriving in San Francisco, he made his first recorded donation to the Orphan Asylum Society of the City of San Francisco. That facility has evolved into the Edgewood Center for Children and Families, and it remains one of our community partners today.

Our company is known for a strong commitment to worker rights and for striving to build sustainability into everything we do. We also encourage a global network of employees to contribute their time and talents to their local communities and causes important to them — and give them the support they need to do so.

LS&Co. has built a culture where giving back is the norm. In fact, it’s a key reason why many people choose to work here. We asked three employees to tell us about the volunteer work they do in their communities.


Gopi Aravindan
Global Retail IT Business Analyst
With LS&Co. for 13 years

Unzipped: What kind of volunteer work do employees in Singapore participate in, and how has this work affected you personally?
Gopi: Our Community Involvement Team workswith many different groups with many different missions — from children to the elderly, from physically challenged persons to economically challenged families, and many more. Volunteering for these different organizations hastaught me to be empathetic. My social and relationship skills have improved. The most important reason to volunteer is to experience the personal fulfillment of knowing that you made a lasting impact.

Tell us a story about a time when you knew you were making a difference.
We organized an event doing arts and crafts with people living with HIV. One person was teaching us how to make a rose out of ribbon, and I was standing behind him while he was seated. I casually rested my hand on his shoulder. He looked up at me, got up, hugged me and sat back down. That hug, though it lasted only a few seconds, made me realize how much it meant to him that we were helping. I realized how just a simple act could bring joy to someone. You will find many employees with similar stories. Every personal story motivates us to continue to help those in need.


Omar Kaba
Regional Finance Manager
With LS&Co. for 9 years

Unzipped: Tell us about the organizations your Community Involvement Team works with in Brazil.
Omar: We work with the Instituto de Tratamento do Câncer Infantil, an institution that treats children with cancer. We visit the kids there on weekends. We read stories and bring presents. Meeting different people makes them feel good.

We also work with a recycling facility called Coopamare. They employ homeless people to recycle materials and give them new skills. Profits earned from the sale of the recycled materials pay a salary to these people and hopefully provide them with a new way of life. Working with this organization, our employees also learned more about the importance of recycling. We came back to our houses and looked at our own garbage in a different way.

How do you see volunteer work affect employees in the workplace?
Every time we finish an activity everybody comes back on Monday or the following day talking about how great they felt when they arrived home. Even though they gave up time when they could have been with their family, the enjoyment of the activity made it all worth it. It makes them think about what they can do to help the community and people that are in need. This mindset gives more value to employees’ experiences and also to the company.


Shawn Rossiter
San Francisco
Senior Specialist, Consumer Relations
With LS&Co. for 26 years

Unzipped: Tell us about your work in the community. How does LS&Co. encourage this work?
Shawn: LS&Co. is incredible at supporting not only what we do as Community Involvement Teams, but also what we do as individuals. If we choose to volunteer on our own, LS&Co. matches each hour of our service with grant money. Also, with a manager’s approval, employees get up to five hours per month of paid time off to volunteer. When my daughter was in grade school, I tutored math at her school on Fridays.

I am very involved with the HIV/AIDS Community Involvement Team. We volunteer for many events each year, including the San Francisco AIDS Walk, in which hundreds of our employees walk and many others contribute money in support of the walkers.

We really stress the power of one person. It’s not just the event you volunteer at once a month. You’re telling people about it. Maybe you’re getting other people to volunteer and spreading the word that there are all kinds of opportunities to help. We take so many things for granted. There are so many people suffering, and we are lucky in so many ways.

What are the benefits of these volunteer experiences?
When you volunteer, you often work alongside wonderful people from different areas of the business. It’s very impactful to build a community based on ideas that are important to the group. The more we all work together, the stronger our relationships doing business will be. I know that if I need something from someone I have volunteered with, they will respond, because we have developed a relationship outside of work.

And, you have fun! For one of our events, we held a fundraiser at a pub in San Francisco on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in October. We sold raffle tickets, poured beer and cooked hot dogs. We raised money for an agency that serves HIV/AIDS clients with massage and muscle therapy. Their budget is tiny. For us to do this event just once a year makes the difference for them to be able to stay in business.