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HRC Report: Levi Strauss Leads in LGBTQ+ Support

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Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) is carrying on its progressive legacy. The denim company known for its left-leaning politics just earned a top ranking in a report documenting companies’ LGBTQIA+ equality practices.

LS&Co. earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index (CEI) identifying 1,271 U.S.-based companies that best practice LGBTQIA+ equality. A top score earns companies a spot on the HRC’s “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality” report. This year marked a record 842 businesses that earned the CEI’s top score of 100. For context, only 13 businesses earned that score in the inaugural 2002 report.

Of the companies featured in the list, denim brands were represented by Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Gap Inc. and PVH Corp. Apparel and footwear brands and retailers such as Adidas North America Inc., J. Crew Group, VF Corp., Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nike, Nordstrom, Target, The Neiman Marcus Group Inc., Walmart, Zara USA Inc. and Ralph Lauren Corp. were also included.

The CEI rating criteria has four key pillars, including nondiscrimination policies, equitable benefits for LGBTQ+ workers and their families, support for an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility.

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Appearing on the list for the 19th year, LS&Co. has long been dedicated to welcoming diversity and inclusion in the denim space. The company racially integrated its factories in the 1940s—long before the legal mandate—and was the first Fortune 500 company to offer domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples. More recently, it rejoined a Texas Compete business statement supporting the inclusion of regionally based common-sense LGBTQIA+ protections, provided philanthropic support to Freedom for All Americans’ advocacy efforts to pass the Equality Act and renewed its support of the HRC Youth Ambassador Program to amplify the voices of LGBTQIA+ advocates. It’s also expanding its global employee resource groups (ERGs) to create safe spaces for employees.

“LS&Co. has been a vocal proponent of LGBTQIA+ equality for so long that I think it would be easy sometimes for us to rest on our laurels, so I’m always most proud when I see us recommitting ourselves to staying ahead of the curve,” said Beckett Doyle, co-lead of LS&Co.’s LGBTQIA+ U.S.-based employee resource group Inside Out.

The index’s robust list of top-scoring companies signals a shift in the industry that celebrates diversity and inclusion efforts specifically in the LGBTQIA+ space. PVH Corp., which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, made an appearance on the list for the sixth year in a row, reflecting the company’s many contributions to organizations that support the community. Its European arm also joined Workplace Pride, a nonprofit foundation that improves the lives of LGBTQIA+ people in workplaces worldwide.

Gap Inc., which was awarded recognition on the list for the 16th year in a row, was another early adopter of same-sex domestic partner benefits. Recently, it updated its healthcare and benefits offerings to provide increased coverage for transgender care.

Abercrombie & Fitch, also featured on the list for its 16th consecutive year, has worked with LGBTQIA+ suicide prevention group The Trevor Project since 2010. Its sister brand Hollister has also partnered with GLSEN, a U.S.-based education organization creating safe and inclusive K-12 schools for all youth. To date, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and its customers have raised more than $6 million to support these organizations.

Looking ahead, the HRC will push for continued progress. According to Joni Madison, interim president at the HRC, the organization will be “raising the bar” for participants next year to reflect new opportunities for LGBTQ+ support.

“We are thrilled about the progress that we have made over the last 20 years and recognize that the work must continue,” Madison said.