The maker of your favourite “501 jeans,” Levi Strauss & Co. announced the launch of the LS&Co. Collaboratory, an annual fellowship program for socially and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs who wish to improve the sustainability of the apparel industry.

The curriculum for the fellowship was designed with the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, with the idea to bring together innovators and designers to advance sustainability in the apparel industry. The fellows will have the opportunity to work at LS&Co.’s Eureka Innovation Lab and tap into the company’s deep network of people and resources to bring their aspirations to life.

“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 of 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.”

Each year, the LS&Co. Collaboratory will focus on a specific social or environmental issue facing the industry—whether that’s textile waste, water shortages or workers’ rights. On the heels of LS&Co.’s public release of its 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 in funding to implement their solutions. After completing the program, LS&Co. Collaboratory fellows will have the tools, knowledge and hopefully inspiration to create apparel even more sustainably than we can imagine today.

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“Water is a critical resource–not only for the apparel industry, but for our planet and society as a whole,” said Nancy McGaw, deputy director of the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program.

“It is critical that the non-profit and private sector come together to create impactful and lasting change across the industry. With LS&Co., we are setting the stage for a new generation of sustainably-minded apparel leaders who will define the new industry standard and we’re proud to be part of this important initiative.”

The program is open to leaders of for profit and not-for-profit organizations from Canada and the U.S. Applications are now open and the 2016 fellows will be announced later this summer. For more information, visit www.levistrauss-collaboratory.com.

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