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Levi Strauss takes a stand on controversial issue

BY Marianne Wilson

The nation’s most iconic denim brand has joined the growing ranks of retailers that are taking a stand on the issues of the day.

Levi Strauss & Co. is calling for stricter gun control laws and putting money behind the push. The company has established the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants from the company during the next four years to nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.

“You may wonder why a company that doesn’t manufacture or sell guns is wading into this issue, but for us, it’s simple,” Levi Strauss president and CEO—and former Army officer — Chip Bergh wrote in an op-ed posted on Fortune. “Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us — all generations and all walks of life.”

The company is also partnering with Everytown for Gun Safety and executives including Michael Bloomberg to form a coalition of business leaders to work for change regarding the “gun violence epidemic in this country.”

“I encourage every CEO and business leader reading this to consider the impact we could make if we stood together alongside the broad coalition of concerned parents, youth, elders, veterans, and community and faith leaders who are committed to shaping a safer path forward,” Berg wrote.

Levi Strauss joins Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart and Kroger Co. who previously waded into the issue following the school shooting in February at Parkland, Florida. Their responses were met with praise by gun control advocates and criticism from gun-rights advocates. Most recently, Nike ignited an Internet firestorm for a different issue — its decision to include former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick as one of the featured athletes in its latest “Just Do It” advertising campaign.

In his op-ed, Bergh noted that he wrote an open letter to customers in 2016 asking them to refrain from bringing firearms into Levi’s stores and other facilities — even in states where it was allowed by the law.

“In the days after I published that letter, I received threats to our stores, our business, and even on my life,” he wrote. “It was unsettling. But these personal attacks pale in comparison to the threats that activists and survivors from Parkland, Sandy Hook, and daily incidents of gun violence face every time they speak up on this issue.”

Levi Strauss is also encouraging its employees who are concerned about gun violence to get involved. The company has expanded the five hours a month it provides employees in paid volunteer time to include political activism.

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