How many companies can say they are truly socially responsible?
They might talk about raising workers' wages, increasing benefits, or reducing their carbon footprint. However, many fail to put those changes into practice, the fear being that anything seen to be eating into profits won't sit well with investors.
That isn't the case with Levi Strauss & Co.
The company is driven by an ambitious programme of corporate, social and environmental responsibility. But investors haven't let that put them off. After a 34-year absence, the company made a notable reappearance on the public stock market, selling 36.7 million shares at $17 apiece. By the close of the day, shares had sold 32% above their offering price.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise, Levi's is an attractive company to own. It's been around for 150 years, is a recognised brand, and has shown steady revenue growth.
It's commitment to social responsibility is equally as impressive. It is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2025 and is improving working conditions in the factories where its clothing is made.
It was an early advocate for the rights of its gay and HIV-positive employees and offers generous parental leave to all employees. Levi's is proud of its achievements and believes they give it a competitive advantage over other brands.
They could be right. Levi's recognised long ago that treating employees well and investing in socially responsible initiatives would pay off. The result has been employees who have stayed longer and customers who have aligned with company values and remained loyal.
Levi's has used its social conscience as a marketing tool, but since 1985 those decisions have been made away from the prying eyes of investors. Now that it's back as a public company, if sales and profit start to decline we'll soon know just how seriously it takes its corporate social responsibility.
At Stopgap we take social responsibility very importantly as well as you may have seen on our 'Things We Care About' page. We work with a range of businesses who utilise their active social responsibility programme within their marketing strategy. If you're a business looking to recruit a marketer with good social responsibility experience why not brief us?