The fashion industry is a real water-guzzling force that annually consumes some 79 billion cubic meters of water – enough to fill 32 million Olympic swimming pools. And that number is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2030. As some clothing companies try to combat this trend, Levi’s is among the leaders.

The company that arguably made jeans the ubiquitous choice for billions of people around the world has been addressing the challenge of reducing water in fabric and garment manufacturing. Given that making some pairs of jeans can require as much as 10,000 liters of water, that’s no small thing.

Levi’s has pioneered the Water<Less®  technique, for example:  “Sometimes we simply use a thimble of water and a bit of ozone instead of detergent,” the company website says. “To get a soft feel typically achieved by using fabric softener, we might tumble jeans with bottle caps and golf balls, taking the water out of the wash altogether. The end result remains the same: the jeans you love made by using less water.”

In a recent interview with online publication good, Levi’s senior manager of global sustainability integration, Liza Schillo, described this and other company innovations aimed at decreasing resource use while meeting customer demand.

Using Repreve recycled fiber, for example – which uses recycled polyethylene terephthalate.

(PET) bottles – is a great example of Levi’s commitment to the circular economy. The company also seeks to purchase virgin (unbleached) cotton that comes from farms that are “essentially functioning as a full and complete part of the natural ecosystem,” Schillo said. That would be a farm that’s “replenishing (the) watershed, … using chemicals that are not harmful and having a positive impact on the native species in the area.”

Recycling jeans is another goal, one further in the future. “We’re working really hard on cracking that nut and partnering with innovative start-ups,” Schillo said. “Right now the raw material input is just cotton t-shirts…. The goal is to get to fully recycled garments…. one day, I hope we get to the point where you can take a pair of Levi’s jeans and if it doesn’t have any better use in it, then you can turn that into a new Levi’s product. That’s the dream.”

Read more about Schillo’s role and Levi’s goals here.

We at DGI believe that doing good and profiting are not mutually exclusive.