This week, the eco-activists rolled out a multimedia campaign that included bringing 16 living mannequins to stage a protest outside the brand’s flagship store in San Francisco. Their demand: that the world’s largest maker of jeans (with sales of $4.8 billion in 2011) eliminate hazardous chemicals from their supply chain. The tactics: turning the denim giant’s global Go Forth “marketing platform”— which was inspired by Walt Whitman’s “O Pioneers” poem — against the brand.
Campaigners are using the language of “Go Forth” against the brand. Greenpeace is mimicking its graphic style and hashtag (#goforth) with its own #detox tag for a “#GoForth and #Detox!” message. The platform’s “This is our time” tagline has turned into “Now is Your Time,” in addition to co-opting other Levi’s brand attributes (see the Pinterest/Facebook-ready “501 reasons to detox” infographic, below) to encourage the company to live up to its high-minded, noble mesaging.
Levi’s is listening.[more]
Here’s how Greenpeace co-opted the Go Forth graphics:
The street action, meanwhile, echoed the Zara mannequin walk-out: “Levi’s mannequins have gotten tired of wearing clothes that contain hazardous chemicals,” said Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner John Deans. “These mannequins are fed up so they shed their clothes and headed for the exits to demand Levi’s detox its clothing.”
Sidewalk demonstrations also took place this week outside Levi’s stores in Denmark, Israel and Austria. “If Levi’s really cares about the impact of its clothes, it will follow the lead of companies like H&M, Nike, and Zara in making a commitment to eliminate all hazardous chemicals from its supply chain by 2020,” said Deans.
Levi’s responded with a Dec. 5th blog post by Michael Kobori, the company’s VP of sustainability. A day later, David Love, Chief Supply Chain Officer for Levi Strauss &Co, blogged on Dec. 6th: “We’re encouraged by the progress we’re making with the Joint Roadmap, but we also agree with Greenpeace that this must be matched by a specific individual action plan. That’s why we’re also making our internal targets and goals public and sharing an even more aggressive company commitment.”
Levi’s also provided the following statement to brandchannel: “In addition to our long-time leadership on chemical issues, for more than 6 months we have been active members (along with key partners like Adidas, H&M, Nike and Puma) in the Joint Roadmap toward Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) by 2020. Today, we announced an even more specific commitment with an action plan and timelines – and a ban on PFCs.”
Even so, Greenpeace, which is getting savvier about turning brands’ visual and verbal marketing campaigns against them, is keeping up its Levi’s lobbying on Twitter today:
The Levi’s action follows the release of a new report titled “Toxic Threads: Under Wraps,” detailing the extent of water pollution from two of Mexico’s largest clothing manufacturers, both of which are Levi’s suppliers. The chemicals released are hormone disruptive and spread heavy foam into surrounding rivers. “Big fashion brands are taking advantage of Mexico’s lax regulations,” said Pierre Terras, Greenpeace Mexico Toxics Campaigner. “Water pollution from these fashion factories is hurting communities in Mexico.”
That’s what inspired 17 Greenpeace activists to installed a banner (in English and Spanish) literally pointing to the offending plant in Mexico on Dec. 5th for an aerial photobomb:
The action against Levi’s is part of a larger Greenpeace global “Detox” campaign spreading from Bangkok to Buenos Aires calling for people to participate in “mannequin” walk-outs, with the recent target, fashion retailer Zara. Greenpeace’s “Toxic Threads The Big Fashion Stitch Up” report inspired its Zara protests, challenging the company: “how will the world’s largest fashion retailer — which responds so swiftly to changes in fashion trends — react to this global call for toxic-free fashion?”
The “Detox Zara” campaign, replete with a video titled “Detox Fashion” (tagline: “Toxic is so last season”), brought Zara owner Inditex to its knees, aided by social media-fueled messaging to build a swirl of viral outrage: “Zara — the world’s largest retailer — has now committed to clean up their supply chain and Detox following 9 days of intensive pressure from people around the world. This included over 320,000 people joining the campaign online, over 44,000 mentions of Zara and the Detox campaign on Twitter alone, and a reach of over 7.1 million people across Twitter and Weibo. Not forgetting our activities on Facebook, Pinterest and outside the brand’s stores,” stated Greenpeace’s Tristan Tremschnig.
The action against Levi’s shows how even the biggest brands can do more to put teeth into their corporate citizenship goals. Levi’s invests in a massive sustainability program, and can point to milestones such as the release of 1.5 million pairs of Water‹Less jeans (which increased to 29 million by year-end) for a savings of 360 million liters of water to date; and its Spring 2013 Waste<Less denim collection featuring 400,000 men’s and women’s jeans and jean jackets made of eight crushed brown and green plastic bottles per pair and composed of at least 20% recycled plastic, in a process that reused about 3.5 million bottles and saved enough water to fill 144 Olympic-size swimming pools.
“You don’t have to sacrifice quality, comfort or style to give an end a new beginning,” stated James Curleigh, global president of the Levi’s brand. “We don’t just want to reduce our impact on the environment, we want to leave it better than we found it.”
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