Washington Post: Levi Strauss CEO takes a side on gun control

Levi Strauss CEO takes a side on gun control: ‘It’s inevitable that we’re going to alienate some consumers’

By Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post, September 10, 2018

Levi Strauss & Co. is taking a stand against gun violence, an unexpectedly political move from the all-American denim company that could turn off some customers — but also win it points with a new segment of shoppers.

The San Francisco-based retailer said last week it is pledging more than $1 million to support nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence. The company is also partnering with Michael Bloomberg to help create a coalition of business leaders who support gun control measures and encouraging employees to get involved in political causes.

“The gun violence epidemic in America has hit a point where something has to be done,” chief executive Chip Bergh said in an interview. “It’s inevitable that we’re going to alienate some consumers, but we can no longer sit on the sidelines and remain silent on this issue.”

The retailer is the latest in a string of high-profile companies, including Nike, PatagoniaYuengling and REI, to wade into highly political debates. The wave of corporate activism, experts say, is one way for businesses to connect with politically minded shoppers, even if they risk offending others. Either way, they say, consumers are increasingly comfortable voting with their wallets — and aren’t afraid to support or boycott companies based on their views.

“In a world where they no longer expect the government to fix things, people are turning to Corporate America to step in and do some good,” said Peter Horst, founder of marketing consultancy CMO. “Consumers increasingly want to engage with companies whose values match theirs.”

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