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Fashion leader sets clean water example

Water pollution is one of the biggest environmental challenges South Africans face.

This World Water Day observed on 22 March 2021, Levi Strauss & Co is one of the growing numbers of corporate citizens actively changing the status quo. The company makes sole use of black and grey water in its manufacturing processes and prevents further pollution to South Africa’s water systems.

The World Economic Forum rates water issues as the top financial risk to the global economy, affecting both people and the planet. Two billion people live in high water stress areas, where the water demand is higher than what is available. Four billion people experience severe water scarcity worldwide.1

Approximately nineteen million South Africans depend on the Vaal River System for drinking water.2 The country’s most significant river system is currently polluted by sewage, refuse, alien plants and manufacturing chemical pollutants. It is polluted beyond acceptable levels and has begun to affect the health of our citizens.

In South Africa, the treatment of wastewater generated in rural and peri-urban areas is non-existent or scarce. Chemicals used in the manufacturing process of textiles either don’t decompose or decompose very slowly, adding to pollution of our groundwater and the ecosystem’s degradation.

“Dam levels in South Africa are currently high. However, the safety of our drinking water is concerning. A healthy water supply contributes to a strong economy and reduces poverty,” says Candace Gilowey, Head of Marketing at Levi Strauss & Co. in South Africa.  “At Levi’s®, we aim to do more to remove hazardous chemicals from the apparel supply chain,” she adds.

Levi Strauss & Co.’s ‘Recycle and Reuse Standard’ supports improved water treatment. This guideline applies to all finishing facilities in compliance with the Global Effluent Requirement (GER) to recycle or reuse effluent water as a full or partial replacement of freshwater in the facility. The Recycle and Reuse standard states that facilities must adhere to the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDCH) wastewater guidelines and recycle over 20% of the manufacturing water, leaving drinking water unaffected.

Levi Strauss & Co. have introduced 20 Water<LessTM finishing techniques worldwide that can save up to 96% of the water used in their apparel’s finishing processes. Eighty percent of their key factories will become Water<LessTM by 2025. “So far, we’ve saved more than 3 billion litres and recycled more than 1.5 billion litres of water through our Water<Less™ innovations,” says Gilowey.

To raise awareness of the importance of clean and sustainable drinking water and celebrate the success of implementing its clean water-saving techniques, Levi’s® is giving  South African consumers clean drinking water in eco-friendly cartons. You can collect yours at their following Levi’s® stores: Canal Walk; Cavendish; Clearwater; Eastgate; Gateway; Mall of Africa; Menlyn; Sandton; Tyger Valley, and the V&A Waterfront.

For more information on Levi’s® and its 20 Water<LessTM finishing techniques, please visit

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