How Levi's is helping fashionistas recycle during the holiday shopping blitz

Apparel brand partners with Goodwill for earth-friendly donation drive

Sometimes fashion is not just about good looks and glamour. This holiday season, Levi’s and Dockers are wooing eco-minded fashionistas with a promotion around recycling the clothing they no longer wear.

In partnership with Goodwill, the sister brands are encouraging people to send their boxes of used clothes to the nonprofit to be resold using free shipping labels available for download on and

To make the offer sweeter, parent company Levi Strauss is donating $5 to Goodwill for every box shipped, except on Dec. 1, the Global Day of Giving, when it will double the donation to $10 per box. While the cash donations will be given only through the Christmas shopping season, the free labels will be provided through 2016.

The marketer hopes that after consumers buy something on the Levi’s or Dockers ecommerce site, they will reuse the shipping box to donate clothes they no longer need. The program, however, isn’t limited to just shoppers. Anyone can print out a label without making a purchase and can use any box to recycle their clothes. Unlike a handful of other fashion brands that also have recycling programs, Levi Strauss doesn’t limit the program to its own items. And the company doesn’t collect any of the personal information that consumers enter to print the labels.

Levi’s said it is trying to turn the millions of packages shipped this holiday season into opportunities to recycle. "We are a company with a strong tradition of giving back," said Marc Rosen, head of global e-commerce, when the program launched earlier this month. "This holiday season we want to give fans of our sites an opportunity to support their local community and reduce the textiles and shoes going into the landfill." 

It’s the latest in a series of recycling measures by the company. For instance, in July, Levi’s put collection boxes at all its stores to accept discarded clothes and it rewards donors with a 20% store discount.

"Ultimately, we hope to make recycling clothing as natural for the consumer as recycling a can or bottle," added Michael Kobori, vice president of sustainability "Making it so easy to donate to Goodwill will help shift consumer behavior."

The initiative is being promoted on the homepages of, and, on the company blog and in email marketing blasts. It’s also being highlighted in the company’s social media channels and is getting paid social media support, said a company rep.

Experts say earth-friendly efforts like this can burnish a brand’s reputation among young consumers that love to shop and worry about the environment. 

The partnership between Levi's and Goodwill impacts Levi’s image "by giving it a sense of enduring value and cultural relevance," said Raphael Bemporad, chief strategy officer of BBMG, a brand consultancy. "The program unites style, social status and sustainability to build brand affinity among aspirational consumers."  

A new BBMG survey shows that about a third of Americans are "aspirationals" who are rewriting the rules of marketing. The group, composed primarily of Millennials and Gen Xers, expects mainstream brands to show they are sustainable. These consumers make a strong connection between being earth-friendly "and being cool, creating new possibilities for brands," says the report. 

Apparel brands are increasing their recycling efforts and finding that they are a good way to build positive social buzz — but their methods vary. For instance, Target ran a promotion from May to September, in which it gave store gift cards to people who donated gently used clothes (from any manufacturer) to online consignment shop ThredUP. Target paid for shipping and accepted the clothes at selected stores. While all the donations were recycled, only donated goods in good enough condition qualified for the gift cards. 

Most brands only recycle the apparel that they sold in the first place. 

Uniqlo started its global recycling in 2006 and promotes the fact that its has collected more than 24 million pieces of used Uniqlo clothing from customers in its stores and delivered them to needy people worldwide. Its mantra: "Clothes are not disposable." 

Patagonia, well known as a pro-environment brand, is a recycling pioneer. It cajoles consumers into repairing instead of replacing their clothes, but if their Patagonia product is beyond repair, the company requests that the customer return it to the store to be recycled or repurposed. Since 2005, it has recycled more than 82 tons of clothing, according to the company.

Finally, high-end fashion brand Eileen Fisher operates its Green Eileen division, which gives customers $5 in store credit for each item of branded used clothing. Items that are in nearly new condition are resold and the profits are donated to groups that support women and girls.  

In a fickle marketplace, such recycling programs give apparel brands purpose and cultural relevance, and help build brand loyalty, according to the BBMG report. The number of aspirational consumers — who value sustainability and getting more out of what they already have — is growing worldwide, states the survey. [Fashion] brands can deliver on that by marketing "durability and resourcefulness while rewarding consumers who use, repurpose and recycle their products." 

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