Levi's cleans up supply chain, removes chemical finishing treatments, boosts sustainability efforts

Levi Strauss & Co. is removing thousands of harsh chemicals and digitalizing the denim-finishing process in a major step towards environmental sustainability and clean manufacturing.


Project F.L.X. - LeviStrauss.com Unzipped

Levi's has announced Project F.L.X. (future-led execution) which introduces technology that replaces manual techniques and automates the denim finishing process. The technology reduces the number of chemical formulations used, including the particularly harsh oxidizer, potassium permanganate, from thousands to a few dozen.

Bart Sights, VP of technical innovation at Levi Strauss & Co. and head of the company's Eureka Innovation Lab, outlined the history of denim finishing in a release, explaining how harsh chemicals have been used for decades to make three core shades: rinsed, stonewashed and bleached.

Sights said, "Today those three shades have exploded into endless variations, all produced with very labor-intensive jobs and long lists of chemical formulations."

With Project F.L.X., he added, Levi's is "designing a cleaner jean for the planet and the people who make Levi's jeans" by implementing a strategy that encompasses the brand's manufacturing and supply chain on a global scale that has not previously been pursued.

As the move to digital finishing helps the company phase out antiquated manufacturing techniques, Levi's sustainability commitment includes achieving zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020. 

Levi's hopes the new strategy will also help save water in the future, as the company has already proven in the lab that the technology can operate using almost 100 percent recycled water in the final manufacturing stages.

Project F.L.X. is also expected to reduce textile waste by more accurately making what the market needs.

Levi's worked with Jeanologia, an entity leading eco-efficient solutions for fabric and garment finishing, to develop Project F.L.X. Jeanologia was founded in 1993 on the premise of creating disruptive technology that includes ozone, lazer and e-flow finishing systems.

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