For the past 40 years, Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) has provided financial support for former and current employees through its charitable nonprofit Red Tab Foundation (RTF). And while it’s always been a helping hand in times of need, it especially flexed its muscles this past year, when the Covid-19 pandemic and associated hurdles challenged communities around the world.
In its recently published annual report, LS&Co. stated that the foundation donated $2.4 million in hardship support in 2021, setting a record in RTF history. For context, 2020 donations totaled $1.7 million, and 2019 donations totaled $1.2 million. And of the program’s lifetime total of $26.5 million in essential grants, 11 percent was distributed during 2021 alone. This year, the foundation has issued more than 1,800 grants to those in need.
“RTF is really near and dear to my heart,” LS&Co. president and CEO Chip Bergh said in the report. “It is some of the best charitable giving in terms of knowing that it’s making an impact on the lives of our employees and retirees.”
During the height of the pandemic in the U.S., the company shared the framework for its employee support program with industry peers to help companies replicate the initiative with their own teams. To date, the RTF Hardship Fund Playbook, which outlined tactical guidance such as legal and tax references for companies to quickly establish hardship assistance, has seen 700 downloads from nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies alike.
While the program provides financial relief for crises such as natural disasters and personal emergencies, Covid-19 is currently the major driver of grant distribution, with 30 percent of grants—totaling $720,000—related to the pandemic. Emergency home repairs followed behind at 15 percent.
The top three Covid-19 grant categories were loss of income, loss of primary LS&Co. hours and unexpected expenses related to sheltering-in-place. The company offered no-interest loans to furloughed employees and established an expedited grant process to deliver funds as quickly as possible. It also covered necessities such as tech tools for kids who switched to remote learning, additional childcare, transportation costs and more.
The report also indicated an increase in donor participation, with the number of individual donors spiking by 42 percent in 2021, with contributions from employees, shareholders and retirees from more than 30 countries. Recipients in the U.S. and Canada received the most support at $1.7 million, followed by Africa at $347K, Asia at $269K, Europe at $66K and Latin America at $20K.
Beyond donations, RTF’s “Red Tab Savers” matched-savings program also helped retail and distribution employees save more than $1 million in personal savings in 2021. This was the first year the program expanded beyond the U.S. and into Canada.
Last year, the RTF leadership team projected a greater demand for employee and retiree support in 2021, stating that the “ripple effects of this historic time will continue for many years.” Looking forward, the company plans to expand the RTF and further connect the LS&Co. community.
Though virtually every business was affected by the pandemic, LS&Co. emerged stronger than ever. The company reported only one unprofitable quarter last year as a result of its swift strategizing—strengthening its focus on direct-to-consumer, refashioning stores into mini distribution centers, and increasing engagement with customers—as well as its unwavering commitment to its values.