Levi’s partners with the City of Cape Town & the Athlone Water Treatment Plant

For decades, Levi Strauss & Co. has been developing and implementing programmes designed to address water consumption and pollution challenges, while promoting sustainable water management and commerce in water-stressed communities. The company has been steadfast in their belief that sustainable water management should be best practice across the entire apparel value chain, from cotton fields to manufacturing and consumer care, holding themselves accountable for their own water facilities and the water usage of their suppliers.

Last year, LS&Co. announced their 2025 Water Action Strategy which now focuses the company’s efforts on saving water where it’s needed most and supporting the resilience of the watersheds and communities where they operate. Locally, this has been best embodied by the Levi’s® partnership with the City of Cape Town and the Athlone Water Treatment Plant.

The Cape Town water crisis captured the attention of the world and highlighted the critical importance of addressing water stress and the effects of climate change. Today, all major dams in the Western Cape are full and overflowing, but the lessons learned from the water crisis have guided Levi’s® sustainability endeavours and led to the development of the Reuse Water Programme, in partnership with the City of Cape Town.

The ambitious plan was created to future-proof the Levi’s® Epping factory, even in drought conditions. The plan aimed to build a state of the art water treatment plant at the facility which would, as a phase one emergency measure, tap into ground water. As a second phase, the plan included partnership with the City of Cape Town to use the sustainable resource of treated effluent water from the city’s effluence treatment plan. The project was completed after overcoming a number of structural and landscape-related obstacles, and today the Epping facility is using the treated effluent water for the washing of denim jeans in the factory laundry. When the reused water is supplied to the plant, the facility is effectively off-the-grid for the washing of denim garments.

“The partnership between Levi’s® and the City of Cape Town is an example of what can be achieved when a common sustainable goal is agreed upon, which has helped to future-proof the water supply of the Levi’s® facility even in drought conditions,” says Peter Waddington, Water Sustainability Project Lead at Levi’s®.

“The Reuse Water Project has also shaped the entire Water Action Strategy of Levi Strauss & Co. globally, with the implementation of the Water<less 2.0 strategy, which includes a 50% reduction of water usage, in litres per garment, in high water-stressed areas in the world by 2025, in all owned and operated facilities as well as vendors around the world.”

A recent visit to the Athlone Water Treatment Plant was held for members of the Levi’s® team to better understand the operation that feeds water to the Levi’s® Epping factory, and to discuss the plant’s planned growth and improvements with regards to both capacity and quality. These growth measures are in place to not only benefit Levi’s® but to benefit many other local businesses as well (of which there are currently 176 customers, and 145 future customers). In attendance was Gavin Van Der Horst – Levi’s® Director of Global Manufacturing; Mervin Meijboom – Levi’s® Manufacturing Head at Epping; Candace Gilowey – Head of Marketing for Levi’s® South Africa; and Peter Waddington – Water Sustainability Lead at Levi’s®. Alderman Xanthea Limberg was amongst those in attendance to ensure that the project is being viewed at the highest levels, in line with the importance Levi’s® has placed on the partnership, and the brand’s priorities to ensure the project is held as best practice globally within the LS&Co. organisation.

The Levi’s® Epping facility will continue to implement the measurement of water usage litres per garment to determine if certain products will become classified Water<less and have a Water<less label. Ultimately, 100% of the product produced at the Epping facility will become Water<less as a result of the Reuse Water Programme.

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