Levi Strauss 'simply cannot stand by silently' on gun violence

  • Levi Strauss is publicly speaking out for tougher gun control laws.
  • The retailer is setting aside $1 million in donations to nonprofits and activists working to end gun violence in the U.S.
  • The issue has been a politically dicey one for U.S. companies as the country remains largely divided on the issue.
Charles Bergh
Ashlee Espinal | CNBC
Charles Bergh

Saying it "simply cannot stand by silently," denim company Levi Strauss is calling for stricter gun laws and backing its position with $1 million in grant money for activists working to curb gun violence.

The retailer is setting aside $1 million in donations to groups working to end gun violence in the U.S. It's also partnering with Everytown for Gun Safety and business leaders including Michael Bloomberg to form a group of leaders that will push for change. It will also give Levi Strauss employees five hours of paid volunteer time every month to work on the issue.

"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," CEO Chip Bergh wrote in an op-ed posted on Fortune on Tuesday. "While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option."

The issue has been a politically dicey one for U.S. companies as the country remains largely divided on the issue.

Dick's Sporting Goods, Walmart and Kroger were met with public backlash, and praise, after they stopped selling assault-style rifles or raised the age for firearms purchases following February's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

"We can't insulate ourselves from every threat," Bergh went on. "We can't 'harden; every place we gather — whether it be our schools, workplaces, shops, churches, or entertainment venues. But we can take common-sense, measurable steps like criminal background checks on all gun sales — that will save lives."

It's not the first time Bergh has chimed in on this issue. The former Army officer wrote an open letter to customers in 2016 asking them to refrain from bringing firearms into Levi's stores.

"In the days after I published that letter, I received threats to our stores, our business, and even on my life. It was unsettling," he said. "But these personal attacks pale in comparison to the threats that activists and survivors from Parkland, Sandy Hook, and daily incidents of gun violence face every time they speak up on this issue."