Why It’s Good Business For Levi’s To Care About What You Do With Your Jeans at Home

Your next pair of Levi’s might come with a clothesline or shoebox-sized dryer.  After a recent lifecycle assessment, Levi’s realized that 60% of the climate impact of a pair of jeans comes after the jeans are made and sold; nearly 80% of this is from drying the jeans in a dryer.  The presumed and easy response to this would be for Levi’s to say, “Not our problem. We abide by fair labor practices, use recycled and organic fibers and run fuel efficient trucks to transport our jeans. What happens after we sell them has nothing to do with us.”

But Levi’s didn’t.  Instead, it launched Care to Air, an awareness campaign and contest to shift consumer behavior in favor of the environment.  In partnershihp with Myoo Create, Levi’s will award $10,000 for the world’s most innovative, covetable, and sustainable air-drying solution for clothing.  This isn’t a money maker for Levi’s.  You don’t have to buy jeans, or even own Levi’s products, for the campaign to be a success.  And since Levi’s has chosen the environment-at-large as a beneficiary, it doesn’t get to leverage the credibility or press that a nonprofit partner would bring to bear.

So why do it?  Is it just about being viwed as a socially compassionate brand?  That’s part of it–and it’s not taboo because the Levi’s actions consistently reflect a commitment (rather than lip-service) to sustainability.  Part of a company’s responsibility (I know, I task them with a lot) is to educate and involve its consumers in making more responsible choices and to pressure their competitors to raise their responsibility game.  Influencing consumer behavior also happens to be one of Levi’s commitments: “To reach far beyond the boundaries of our company to influence not only what people wear but the way people think and act.”

This is exactly what Levi’s is doing with Care to Air, and it’s brilliant because as much as you register the brand behind this campaign, it isn’t about the brand at all.  It’s about what I do with my clothes at home and how I understand this to affect the environment.

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