Sustainability is the new buzzword, thrown around so casually by companies these days it barely has any meaning. Usually, the term is used when referring to a company's green initiatives or environmental efforts.
At Klean Kanteen "sustainability" is a word we don’t use lightly. It means a lot more to us than adopting individual components like carbon offsets, recycled packaging or wind energy. Put simply, to us a sustainable business is one that gives more than it takes.
A sustainable business considers how individual aspects of operations interrelate with the external world, and consciously adopts practices that benefit more than the bottom line. A sustainable business recognizes that in order to survive and thrive far into the future, it must consider the sum total of its interactions with people, the environment, culture and technology. This type of awareness and consideration forms the basis for sustainability, weaving it into the very fabric and identity of our company.
In some ways, true sustainability is an impossible goal because it’s an ongoing project, a never-ending path. This journey involves constant research into how our company is currently operating. As understanding of our business grows, we are able to identify where positive changes can be made and wisely implement them, everything from better sourcing of materials to greater levels of transparency with the public.
As we strive to be a model and a leader, sustainability will continue to drive our decisions and our innovations much as it was a driver of the invention of Klean Kanteen itself. Below we have outlined not only what we’ve accomplished so far, but also pieces of our plan for the future. This plan is not complete. It never will be. There will always be more we can do, and Klean Kanteen will always work toward becoming a more sustainable company.
Click on a section below for more details.
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Quality Control, Health and Safety
Producing excellent products designed to last that are 100% healthy and safe for consumers.
- Klean Kanteen® was the first company in the bottle industry to identify BPA as a dangerous and harmful substance. We came to this conclusion based on early scientific evidence and studies, long before mainstream media and retail were even willing to acknowledge BPA as a substance of concern. As recently as 2007, major outdoor retailers warned Klean Kanteen® that they would not carry our products if our packaging discussed the health risks associated with BPA, polycarbonate or lined aluminum.
- Do you know what’s in your bottle? Klean Kanteens were designed using 18/8 stainless steel specifically because of its track record as a safe material for food contact applications. Ingredients of the stainless steel used to make Klean Kanteens include chromium, nickel, manganese, silicon, copper, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, molybdenum, zirconium, and titanium (in decreasing order by weight). Recent third-party laboratory testing confirms these are the ingredients, and indicate the metals do not migrate under a range of food-simulating conditions per France and Germany's stringent food-contact standards (we’ve found these standards more rigorous than FDA food-contact standards and test our Kanteens accordingly). While plastic and aluminum bottle manufacturers have moved on to new “BPA-free” materials after strong public outcry, these companies still don’t disclose their ingredients, including the liner of aluminum bottles, and leave consumers to wonder what ingredients they might be exposed to.
- Klean Kanteen® has representatives living in China who visit our factories regularly and are in communication with factory managers and workers to ensure implementation of production and quality control practices that result in delivery of consistent, safe Klean Kanteen products.
- We currently perform regular product testing through third-party, accredited laboratories to meet regulatory requirements and our own high standards for product safety and quality assurance. Our current protocol includes relevant food contact and materials safety standards for the U.S., as well as Canada, Australia/New Zealand, the European Union, and specific standards of France and Germany. Klean Kanteen products have also been periodically evaluated per food contact safety standards of Japan, and in 2012 those standards are becoming part of our regular protocol.
- Klean Kanteen® works to implement a Code of Conduct with its suppliers and material vendors that defines ethical standards, employee rights, fair labor standards, professional management systems, manufacturing excellence, responsible natural resource management, and health and safety of workers, employees and end users. Key outcomes expected from successful implementation of the Code of Conduct include:
- clearly defined and well controlled manufacturing processes, ingredients, and production specifications of component-level and final products
- consistency with health and safety standards and certifications that are legally required and/or as desired for individual and collective manufacturing processes, materials, and consumer products
- clear chain-of-custody control throughout the supply/manufacturing chain
- fair, healthful working conditions
- minimization of waste and appropriate handling of waste to avoid environmental pollution and human health risk
- elimination of substances in production process or end product that are hazardous to human and/or environmental health
- increasing efficiencies in material, energy, and water use
- long-term business prosperity
- As part of the Code of Conduct, Klean Kanteen® establishes a Chain of Custody protocol that requires suppliers to track and document the materials that go into our bottles from the raw materials to the final product. This standard provides traceability by linking material and production information to a lot mark on each Klean Kanteen product or accessory. From each lot mark, we can trace an individual item back to the source Supplier, review production information, source materials, any finding of non-conformity or corrective action, all to help us better address and solve a product concern with speed and confidence.
Cultural and Social Resources
Protecting and nurturing our employees, our community and our world through fair labor practices and a high level of awareness of consumer and societal expectations.
- Employee care and welfare are tops for us, whether it’s our crew of 40ish employees here in Chico or folks who provide materials and services from locations around the globe for our direct use and the manufacture of Klean Kanteen products. All direct Klean Kanteen employees work here in Chico (all live in Butte County) and receive significant health, dental, and eye insurance benefits, as well as retirement, bonus, and maternity/paternity benefits.
- The primary Klean Kanteen manufacturing partner in Guangdong Province, China, maintains SA8000 certification, an auditable certification standard based on international workplace norms of International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This standard is the benchmark against which companies and factories measure their performance, and helps us know our values for employee care are being sustained.
- The Klean fair labor standard established in our Code of Conduct is developed from the Ethical Trade Initiative Base Code. New component or final product Suppliers must demonstrate strong fair labor performance as part of the Klean qualification process. Regular third-party social audits allow us to confirm the conditions agreed upon with Suppliers endure as time goes on. Results of audits to date have generally indicated fair, safe working conditions, with minor corrective actions which have been promptly addressed once identified. Repeated poor performance is not tolerated and cause for severance of business relations.
- We view lines of communication with the public, our customers and our partners as a two-way street. The Klean Kanteen® website is home to an extensive amount of educational material and resources related to both our products and our core areas of interest – health, sustainability, and environmental awareness. The website also points the way to contact information where customers and the general public can submit questions, comments, suggestions and ideas to real people ready and able to connect. We also maintain a consumer newsletter and social networking streams to connect our community with news sources and likeminded organizations. We view this interactive learning and development as both a service and a benefit.
- Klean Kanteen® began building an online community through electronic means of communication in 2005. Now tens of thousands of people receive our regular consumer newsletters and join us through online social networks where we cross-pollinate with ideas and keep abreast of the latest on topics like plastic pollution, waste reduction, environmental toxins, health and hydration. Through our social on-line networks, Klean Kanteen collaborates with likeminded companies and non-profits to educate about issues related to health, environment, and community.
- Klean Kanteen® is politically involved and we support legislation at the local, state and federal levels that protects the health of people and our planet by limiting exposure to environmental toxins and reducing pollution. In August 2009, Klean Kanteen® wrote a series of letters to the California State Assembly and individual members to express support for SB 797, a law that would prohibit the manufacture, sale or distribution of food and beverage containers containing BPA or lined with any material that contains BPA at a level greater than .1 parts per billion. The law would also prohibit the sale of infant formula in any can, bottle or other packaging containing BPA.
Managing our supply chain, manufacturing and waste management to ensure the most efficient use of materials and the maximum reduction of pollution and waste, plus appropriate handling of waste that is created.
- We know our business depends on operations locally and abroad that can be messy and cause harm to the environment. On behalf of our friends, family, and folks worldwide, we are committed to doing better. That’s why we’re working at Klean to understand and address these impacts by measurement and management through critical environmental lenses across direct and indirect functions of our business.
- At Klean, we feel an inherent responsibility to lead an examined life, identify and measure use of natural resources, acknowledge the associated impacts, and make new choices toward better outcomes for people and the planet. To the extent Klean Kanteen products and services result from the inputs of multiple businesses, our impact, and thus our responsibility, extends to the practices we support through Suppliers we select and partner with in our sourcing and procurement practices.
- The Klean Kanteen Code of Conduct includes a natural resource management component guiding (and requiring) our Suppliers to measure and report their annual energy, water, waste, and chemical substance use associated with production for Klean. Suppliers who wish to be long-lasting partners with Klean Kanteen, or any business seeking to flourish in the unfolding era of resource efficiency requirement, must endeavor to understand and actively manage their use of the natural resources and ecosystem services that underlie all manners of operation and delivery of product and/or service.
- In 2009 we began offsetting electricity use at our Chico, Calif. distributing facilities and main offices through a renewable energy credits (RECs) program with Green Mountain Energy to cover our electricity usage since January 1, 2008. We have aspirations for our own on-site electricity generation someday, and in the meantime, RECs provide the opportunity to support climate-positive actions proportional to the impact we cause by our own facility consumption from the grid.
- In 2010 we launched the Green Shipping Program with the help again of our friends at Green Mountain Energy to offset the carbon footprint from all orders placed through the online retail store. The Green Shipping Program uses a portion of the shipping costs to purchase carbon offsets (from projects that capture and absorb carbon) equal to the carbon footprint of the shipping. Put simply, we’re helping fund projects that take carbon out of the atmosphere, equal to the amount generated from the shipping. So the net result is zero.
- All Klean Kanteen® packaging, from the hangtags on the bottles to the boxes and other materials we use to ship our products, is recycled from post-consumer waste or made from materials certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
- Klean Kanteen® in-store displays are made from FSC-certified wood and are finished with low VOC, environmentally friendly, water-based stains.
- The Klean Kanteen® web site is hosted with Canvas Dreams, a company that is entirely wind powered.
- We speak up for natural resources. In 2010, Klean joined other outdoor industry representatives in a letter to U.S. congressional leaders voicing support for public land and water conservation legislation that would preserve Wilderness and wild rivers in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Tennessee, and West Virginia. That same year, we also lent support in a letter to Congress for the Global Conservation Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that called on the U.S. government to develop an international strategy capable of stemming extinction and natural resource depletion worldwide.
- Klean Kanteen is an active member of the Outdoor Industry Association’s Sustainability Working Group, working with our peers to create rigorous tools that allow businesses to self-evaluate through meaningful environmental lenses and make informed, pro-active, deliberate decisions associated with the design and delivery of their products and services.
- Klean Kanteen® is a proud member of 1% For The Planet. Our donations always seem to exceed our 1% commitment, and we get juiced on the wide range of likeminded nonprofits and organizations we work with through our 1% membership, including The Breast Cancer Fund, Healthy Child Healthy World, NatureBridge, Environmental Working Group, Buffalo Field Campaign, American Hiking Society, and many others. To learn more, check out our Friends page.
- In 2010, Klean Kanteen® became a member of the California Business Alliance for a Green Economy, a community of businesses working together to promote clean energy, fossil fuel independence and climate security as essential pieces in protecting our economy and bolstering it for the future.
Community and Innovation
Adopting and integrating relevant technological innovations and new communication tools early in order to operate more efficiently and to more effectively reach out to our consumer community and to the general public.
- From the groundbreaking original, Klean Kanteen Classic that revolutionized the way people think and drink, to the substantial commitments we’ve made to support like-minded organizations who share our cause, Klean Kanteen is recognized for its innovative solutions and approaches to raising social consciousness.
- In April 2011, Fast Company named Klean Kanteen as the perfect example of a product that meets consumer craving for total value, with “total value” defined as “products that deliver practical benefits like price and quality but that also negate their buyer’s remorse by providing societal and environmental good as well as "tribal benefits" that help them feel connected to a larger community with shared values.” .
- Our most recent development, the Steel Pint Cup, is a great example of that total value, a simple solution to reduce the significant plastic pollution resulting from event beverage service. The Cup program has been wildly successful in Summer 2011 as Klean teamed up with business and non-profit partners around the country to develop access to water and other beverage at music festival venues without the usual plastic pollution. A pinnacle for the Summer 2011 Cup campaign was a collaborative benefit at the 2011 Summer Outdoor Retailer Show where Osprey and Patagonia partnered with Klean for a dual cause to benefit the Buffalo Field Campaign and encourage event attendees to ditch single-use plastic. Patagonia staff said it was their most successful benefit EVER.
- Klean Kanteen has a strong connection to community, another significant tenet of sustainable business practice we share with other local business leaders like Lundberg Farms, ChicoBag, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. We’ve given significantly in the local community to elementary and secondary schools and non-profit organizations like the Torres Community Shelter, Kids and Creeks, KCHO, Bridging the Gap, Chico American Legion Baseball, Chico Earth Flag Project, Chico Natural Foods, Butte County Sheriff, Chico Hot Half Marathon, Chico State Rugby, KZFR, Green Transition Chico, Children’s Choir of Chico, and Chico Sunrise Rotary Club (just to name a few).
- Klean adopted and committed resources to the emerging technologies now defined as social media early on, and remain connected with active, growing communities within Flickr, Twitter and Facebook.