Levi Strauss sustainability chief leaves Better Cotton Initiative board

(Reuters) – Levi Strauss & Co’s chief sustainability officer, Jeff Hogue, has left the board of trade body Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), the denim maker said on Friday.

Earlier this year, several brands including Swedish fashion chain H&M and sportswear maker Nike as well as BCI became targets of some Chinese internet users after they raised concerns about alleged forced labor in Xinjiang.

Members of the coalition remain torn over how and when to respond to the Chinese attacks, with some wanting BCI to swiftly and forcefully rebut the attacks and others pushing for a slower and more cautious approach, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Members of BCI that promotes sustainable cotton production include Nike, Adidas, H&M and Japan’s Fast Retailing.

The China branch of BCI, however, said in March it had found no signs of forced labor in Xinjiang.

The Journal said BCI deleted from its website a statement about its concerns in Xinjiang four months ago and has not commented since.

BCI declined to comment.

Levi Chief Executive Officer Chip Bergh said in April the brand had not been doing any business in Xinjiang in more than a decade, noting China typically accounts for only about 3% of its total revenue.

Hogue, who joined the Dockers brand owner as the sustainability chief last year, is building the sustainability strategy and team, a Levi spokesperson said on Friday. Levi declined to comment on the reason for his stepping down.

(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)


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