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Exclusive: Levi Strauss & Co. unveils diversity plans, pledges to appoint a black board member

Exclusive: Levi Strauss & Co. unveils diversity plans, pledges to appoint a black board member
[Photo: Atharva Tulsi/Unsplash]

Levi Strauss & Co. has joined the ranks of businesses that are celebrating Juneteenth as an official paid company holiday worldwide.

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The jeans maker also pledged today to fill a position it calls “head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging,” to add an African American person to the board of directors, and to strive to have 50% of candidates interviewing for jobs be people of color. In addition, Levi Strauss & Co. plans to share its employee diversity data and subsequent updates and teach all employees about racial equity.

Ongoing commitments include hiring from historically black colleges and universities and supporting efforts to convince companies to give employees time off to go vote.

“Part of this is acting with conviction internally on what we stand for so strongly externally,” CEO Chip Bergh tells Fast Company. “The easiest place for us to make progress for racial justice is inside our own house.”

He said Levi Strauss & Co. has been committed to racial equality for more than 50 years, citing the company’s desegregating of its factories in the South and Southeast in the 1950s, and the $47 million the Levi Strauss Foundation has donated to social justice and equality causes.

“Staring at the brutal facts of where we are as a company was a little bit of a gut punch. We have work to do,” Bergh says.

Numerous companies in all sectors of the economy have come forward with similar promises and plans to promote diversity, from the Adidas pledge to hire more people of color in the U.S. and Apple’s new $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative to Twitter’s declaring Juneteenth a company holiday and SoftBank’s $100 million fund, which will invest in companies helmed by founders and entrepreneurs of color.

Racial inequality was thrust in the national spotlight last month when George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, was killed by Minneapolis police.

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