Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) launched its new LS&Co. Collaboratory, an annual fellowship program for socially and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs.

This first fellowship program developed by the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, educational and policy studies organization, will bring together innovators and designers who concentrate on pursuing sustainability in the apparel industry.

Each year, the LS&Co. Collaboratory will focus on a specific social or environmental issue facing the industry such as, for instance, textile waste, water shortages or workers’ rights. For this year LS&Co.’s public release is focusing on its open source “Water<Less” techniques. The initial fellowship program will target entrepreneurs who are interested in developing new technologies and methodologies to understand and reduce their water footprint. 

Entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs from around the world will be invited to attend an immersive workshop at LS&Co.’s Eureka Innovation Lab in San Francisco. As fellows, they will work alongside established leaders in design, innovation and sustainability to accelerate their water sustainability ideas. In addition to the workshop, fellows may receive up to 50,000 USD in funding to implement their solutions.

“As an industry, we need to make sustainability a top priority and this means coming together to tackle the big social and environmental issues of our time,” said Chip Bergh, president and CEO, LS&Co. “The LS&Co. Collaboratory embeds the principles we’ve followed over the last 163 years to help foster the next generation of designers and entrepreneurs so that together we can build an apparel industry that restores the environment and protects our most vital resources.” 

The program is open to leaders of profit and non-profit organizations. Applications are now open and the 2016 fellows will be announced later this summer.

Levi Strauss & Co. designs and markets the Levi's, Dockers, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co., and Denizen brands. Its products are sold in more than 110 countries worldwide through chain retailers, department stores, online sites, and approximately 2,800 retail stores and shop-in-shops. Levi Strauss & Co.'s reported fiscal 2015 net revenues were USD4.5 billion.