American clothing company Levi Strauss & Co. announced Tuesday the launch of a new campaign aimed at preventing gun violence.
Company president and CEO Chip Bergh penned an op-ed for Fortune magazine saying business leaders have a responsibility to speak up on issues that threaten the American “fabric.”
“We can’t take on every issue. But as business leaders with power in the public and political arenas, we simply cannot stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work,” he wrote. “While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option. That’s why Levi Strauss & Co. is stepping up our support for gun violence prevention.”
Mr. Bergh said the company is stepping up its gun-control activism in three areas: First, by creating the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants to boosting gun-control groups; Second, by partnering with Everytown for Gun Safety and Michael Bloomberg to form Everytown Business Leaders for Gun Safety; And third, by doubling the company’s usual employee donation match to organizations aligned with the new Safer Tomorrow Fund.
The company will also pay employees for their political activism, for up to five hours a month.
“I’m not here to suggest we repeal the Second Amendment or to suggest that gun owners aren’t responsible,” Mr. Bergh wrote. “In fact, as a former U.S. Army officer, I took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. But as retired four-star general Michael Hayden once said, ‘There are some weapons out there that frankly nobody should have access to. And actually, there are some people out there who should never have access to any weapons.’”
The CEO said he’s in favor of “common-sense” gun-control measures, like performing criminal background checks on all gun sales, which he argued “will save lives.”
“As a company, we have never been afraid to take an unpopular stand to support a greater good,” he wrote. “We integrated our factories in the American South years before the Civil Rights Act was passed. We offered benefits to same-sex partners in the 1990s, long before most companies did. We pulled our financial support for the Boy Scouts of America when it banned gay troop leaders. While each one of these stands may have been controversial at the time, history proved the company right in the long run. And I’m convinced that while some will disagree with our stand to end gun violence, history will prove this position right too.”
Mr. Bergh previously made national headlines after the 2016 presidential election when he asked customers to no longer bring firearms into Levi Strauss retail stores.
The request, which came on the heels of a customer in Georgia injuring himself when his firearm discharged accidentally in a store changing room, led to threats against the store and Mr. Bergh himself, he said Tuesday.
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