Levi's Values: One Size Does Not Fit All
Regarding "Managing by values" (Cover Story, Aug. 1), the substance of managing is making decisions, and values are what drive our preferences for one thing over another. Hence, by definition, everyone "manages by values."
What makes Bob Haas & Co. unique are the specific values they choose to emphasize. They have decided to run Levi's by values other than, for example, the widely held--even sacrosanct--value of increasing stockholder value above all else. Instead, Levi's has decided to take a broader perspective and include all stakeholders when considering how to increase value. Thus the bottom line has a face as well as a dollar sign on it.
While I can see possible reasons for Haas's struggles, I also see a laudable vision and courage worthy of emulation.
Darrell D. Harmon
I know very little about Levi Strauss & Co. and less about Bob Haas, but he is to be commended for his recognition that how you behave is the truest reflection of what you believe. Anyone with enough fortitude to be "flaky" like Mr. Haas is already further down the path to shareholder value than his detractors appear to understand.
Brett A. White
Hartford City, Ind.
My hat's off to Bob Haas. His actions echo the words of Peter Drucker: "Management has no power--management has only responsibility." In my view, "responsibility" has no meaning unless it is guided by personal values. Should stock in Haas's company become available on the open market, I'd be happy to buy some.
Hans M. Eckardt
Newport Beach, Calif.
Levi Strauss & Co. deserves credit for attempting to meld the social responsibility of business with the corporate responsibility. Haas states "...it's a matter of leadership," which, the authors add, will attract attention and invite criticism. Having recently visited one of Levi's facilities in Central America, I witnessed [that] conflict.
Under the terms for working hours, their corporate brochure states: "While we favor partners who utilize less than 60-hour workweeks, we will not use contractors who, on a regularly scheduled basis, require in excess of a 60-hour week. Employees should be allowed one day off in seven days."
Haas deserves credit for attempting the difficult task of bringing social responsibility to business, especially global business. Is there an equal responsibility to contribute to the stability of the community? Does enforcing child labor laws really benefit the local society when the company leaves in three years?
I cannot really blame Levi's for their decisions, after all, everyone's doing it...just as Levi's moved the manufacture of Dockers offshore to compete on price in the domestic market because that's what the competition did. Leadership is tough work. And it creates many conflicts along the way toward change and betterment. Maybe corporate values haven't changed much, they're just marketed better.
I trust that the slowdown in earnings and revenues for Levi Strauss is due to a boycott by those like me who resent the heavyhanded imposition of the personal nonvalues of Bob Haas on organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America. Through pressure on the United Way of San Francisco, he managed to essentially cut off the Scouts served by it from contributions through that agency. Of course, his nonvalue exercise backfired and the Boy Scouts collected increased contributions from thousands of individuals and business people.
William L. Knecht
Editor's note: Levi's no longer funds the Boy Scouts because it says the organization discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and religion. But the company says the boycott has not affected sales.