I was pleased to read that Levi’s has decided to ban sandblasting to fade their jeans. If you’re late to the party, the processes used to make premium denim affects like fades, bleaching etc is very toxic to workers and the environment (for more background, see Denim laundry contractor pt. 2). Sandblasting is injurious to health due to exposure to silica. Now, this is where Levi’s mandate gets interesting. Levi’s already has stringent compliance standards to ensure worker safety but they -and H&M- have decided it’s not enough. Get this:
…we recognize that there are factories – often linked to counterfeit operations – that do not apply these same safeguards. And because they don’t rigorously enforce proper health and safety standards for sandblasting, they put unsuspecting workers at risk.
This is a serious industry concern. And even though we at Levi Strauss & Co. are confident in our practices, we’ve decided that the best way we can help ensure no worker – in any garment factory – faces this risk is to move to end sandblasting.
This move is unprecedented, marking a new era of corporate citizenship. With this strategy, Levi’s is not only removing the potential dangers their workers can face but they’re protecting workers who are employed in counterfeiting their products. Truly amazing.
And because Levi’s is so big and well known, they have the heft to persuade other denim producers to follow suit -if only via consumer education and their subsequent activism. I’m hoping it will only be a matter of time before sustainability minded consumers fore go premium denim with its devastating consequences to health and environment. I hate to be the one to tell you but if you buy treated denim, you’re part of the problem.