In 2017, after the Trump administration declared its intent to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate, Levi Strauss & Co. was among the first wave of companies to sign on to the We Are Still In coalition, signaling our intent to continue working toward the treaty’s goals by reducing emissions across our operations. Nearly 4,000 companies, cities, faith-based groups and academic, health care and financial institutions ultimately joined the effort.
Now LS&Co. has taken the next step with the coalition by signing on to its We Are All In statement “to reaffirm our commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change” and pledge to partner with fellow coalition members and the Biden-Harris administration to tackle the climate crisis.
This came in a busy week for climate action. On December 8, CEO Chip Bergh signed the 2030 CEO Letter to the European Commission, calling for the European Union to increase its 2030 emissions reduction target to at least 55%. That same day, the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) awarded LS&Co. an “A” score on its climate change survey in recognition of our commitment to science-based climate action to cut emissions, mitigate climate risks and help drive toward a low-carbon economy.
To learn more, we talked to LS&Co. Chief Sustainability Officer Jeffrey Hogue about these efforts and the work ahead.
How do the We Are All In statement and the EU letter fit with our climate position?
We are at an absolutely critical moment in the effort to address the climate crisis: five years after the Paris Agreement and entering the decade that will determine success or failure in responding to this existential threat.
By reaffirming our commitment to mitigate climate change and supporting policies that align with climate science and our values, we’re again sending the message that LS&Co. is ready to work with the global community to create change. Chip sent the same message by signing the EU CEO 2030 letter, encouraging the EU to be even more ambitious with its 2030 climate strategy.
Reentering the Paris Agreement and committing to science-based emissions reductions are key policies that the Biden administration can adopt to advance global climate action and enable the just transition to a resilient clean energy economy. These critical first steps will strengthen the accord, encourage global cooperation and accelerate action to combat the climate crisis, while providing coherency for companies like LS&Co. that have committed to science-based climate action. As the letter states, We Are All In — all in on our efforts to make progress in our operations and continue our climate policy advocacy.
What other policies do we need to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement?
Addressing the climate crisis will require a range of policy solutions. Market-based approaches like pricing carbon emissions, for example, can encourage businesses to pursue cost-efficient emissions reductions and incentivize clean energy innovation. Furthermore, as governments pursue economic recovery, there’s an opportunity to invest in and create family-sustaining jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency while building a more environmentally and economically resilient economy.
This must be accompanied by much stronger support for marginalized communities globally — and in the U.S., Black and Brown communities — that are hit hardest by pollution and climate impacts. That’s an injustice that’s been allowed to persist for far too long.
What does the CDP report tell us about where we are in our programs?
CDP represents major capital markets and 515 investors with $106 trillion in assets under management. By focusing on climate change disclosures, CDP gives investors information they can use to make investment decisions based on the resiliency of companies they’re considering.
This year, LS&Co. is one of 270 companies (of more than 9,000 surveyed) and one of only three pure-play apparel companies that made the climate A List for transparency and management of strategies to combat climate change. This is a huge win for us as a company, and the culmination of years of effort and partnership with our Controllership and our Finance and Legal teams, who’ve worked collectively to disclose information related to our strategy and the financial risks and impacts to our company.
What are your 2021 priorities on climate?
Making the CDP A List is a great achievement, but climate change represents an existential crisis, which makes our work toward our science-based targets and our advocacy for necessary climate and energy policies so necessary. All companies in all sectors need to up their game to ensure that we meet and exceed the reduction trajectories to limit global temperature rise to 1.5*C and avoid the worst of climate change.
From a performance standpoint, our CDP scoring is primarily related to emissions reductions in our owned-and-operated retail, distribution and manufacturing operations, where we now procure 71% of our electricity from renewable sources, on the way to 100% by 2025. And our distribution center in Henderson, Nevada, just achieved LEED Platinum certification as well, which is fantastic news.
We now need to accelerate our performance in our supply chain — which makes up 63% of our overall carbon footprint and where we’ve pledged to reduce emissions by 40% by 2025. This will require further investment in the supply chain. We’ve made positive steps by expanding of our partnership with the International Finance Corporation, and we recently rolled out a new slate of targets for suppliers. In the year ahead, we’ll double down on optimizing performance measurement and supporting our suppliers’ engagement on the reduction pathways.
The recognition from CDP is great, and our recent advocacy efforts are very meaningful. Everyone in the company should be proud. But there’s much more work to do, and we should have much more progress to report on in the year ahead.