Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh believes it’s his job to speak up about pressing and difficult societal issues including racial and social injustice, voter rights, environmental protection, and sustainability.
Bergh spent 28 years at Procter & Gamble before taking the helm at Levi’s, one of the oldest companies in America, in 2011. His goal was to revive it.
“The whole Levi’s story for the past nine years has been the turnaround,” he said. “Levi’s is back. It’s a hot brand. We’re number one around the world.” But then the pandemic hit hard, shuttering stores and slashing quarterly revenue 67 percent. “I can honestly say I’ve never had to post revenue results that bad,” Bergh said, predicting that Levi’s will emerge from COVID-19 smaller, but with stronger brands.
Berkeley Haas MBA students asked Bergh some tough questions during this jointly sponsored Dean’s Speaker and Peterson Speaker Series Q&A.Here are some of Bergh’s thoughts and the video (below).
On “amping up his empathy muscles”:
When I joined the company (in 2011), diversity and inclusion was really low on my list. The house was on fire. We needed to fix the house and I thought that the two were separate. When I look back on it now, I realize that if I’d addressed these issues head on in the early days we’d be a better company today. I really do believe that diverse organizations will out-compete homogeneous ones every single day.
On the no nonsense pre-IPO road show with investors:
We made it really really clear during our IPO that what got us to where we are is being a values-led company and by doubling down on the things that make us who we are. We talked about our values and the investments we’ve made in sustainability. We talked about some of the innovation that’s come out of sustainability. I talked about the stand that we took on ending gun violence in this country. It’s a pretty polarizing place to be…and I said if you don’t have an appetite for that we’re not your kind of stock. Don’t invest in us.
Watch the video: