Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) president and CEO Chip Bergh is again doubling down on his outspoken political convictions. The denim executive recently appeared on a new business-focused series on CNN’s streaming service, CNN+, to address his reasons for taking a stance on hot-button issues.
Hosted by former CNN anchor Poppy Harlow—who interviewed Bergh last April regarding Georgia’s voting laws—“Boss Files” takes a look at business leaders across various industries and showcases the personal and professional challenges they’ve overcome.
“When we weigh in on anything, we have three filters,” Bergh said during the interview. “One, does it matter to our employees? Two, do we think we can make a difference? And three—which is probably the hardest one—will the test of time show that we were on the right side of the issue?”
The episode debuted on the streaming platform just months after LS&Co. brand president Jennifer Sey claimed she had been “pushed out” for her controversial opinions surrounding pandemic-related school closures. Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Sey had been a vocal opponent of the U.S. public school closure mandate, and wrote op-eds, appeared on local news shows and organized rallies in support of keeping schools open. LS&Co., on the other hand, allegedly didn’t agree. She claimed she felt pressured from the company’s head of corporate communications and its legal and HR departments—and even Bergh himself—to stop verbalizing her views because they weren’t aligned with the company’s.
The company has a long track record of taking a stance on social issues that impact the communities where it operates. After a customer accidentally shot himself in the foot inside a Levi’s store in 2016, Bergh publicly denounced bringing guns into any of the company’s locations, and began supporting organizations dedicated to ending gun violence. In 2019, Bergh drafted a letter signed by 200 CEOs asking the Senate for stricter gun control. The company is also a strong supporter of voters’ rights, and was recently one of six companies profiled in a corporate civic playbook for initiatives increasing voter turnout.
The episode highlighted Bergh’s decision to advocate for gun violence prevention, thoughts on company operations in China and how the company addresses human rights violations within its supply chain. Ultimately, Bergh said it’s best to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong,” and explained how that statement continues to drive his business decisions.
Harlow’s interview with Bergh took place in LS&Co.’s Eureka Innovation Lab in San Francisco, a space dedicated to design, research and creative development. The lab was the birthplace of LS&Co.’s Project F.L.X.—a laser-powered technology that digitizes the design and development of denim finishing—and served as a complementary backdrop to the sustainability conversation.
The episode highlighted water-saving initiatives like Water<Less, as well as Levi’s commitment to using more sustainable fibers, implementing laser technology and creating consumer campaigns like Buy Better, Wear Longer. In a sustainability report published last year, Levi Strauss outlined its goals to include more hemp and organic cotton in its products, and to look to outside innovations to further improve the footprint of its jeans.
The “Boss Files” is now streaming. Also profiled in the series’ first season is Mellody Hobson, Starbucks board chair; Indra Nooyi, former Pepsi CEO; Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO; Cathy Engelbert, WNBA commissioner; Cynt Marshall, Dallas Mavericks CEO; and Beth Ford, Land O’Lakes CEO.