Consciously Created: Every Step Makes an Impact
Since we started making shoes in 2003, we’ve been a different kind of company. We’ve always believed that as shoemakers we could be difference-makers, too.
By leading with our values, bucking trends, and just being our quirky selves, we’ve been able to blaze trails in footwear design—but also in environmental advocacy and manufacturing practices, at a time when leadership by example has never been more critical.
We have a phrase that sums up our approach and the journey we’ve been on: Consciously Created. It’s about being obsessively aware of our effect on the planet and, as a result, being conscious of every choice we make.
We’ve been on a “detox journey” to eliminate everything that shouldn’t end up in our products and our planet, selecting materials that favor sustainability, that don't disrupt the natural order, and that don't harmfully impact the environment. We’re excited to share a few of our key detox milestones:
PFC-Free Water Repellency for a Safer Environment
While they may be good at repelling water, PFCs are also toxic. They spread themselves far and wide, and don’t break down. Our safe alternative repels water just as well without harming life on the planet. Today, we are over 95% PFC-free and continue on our path to reach 100%.
"We have spent three years working on this switch. Most footwear brands set their PFC-free target to 2020, but KEEN got 70% of the way there in 2016 and made it by 2019. So far, we have eliminated 150+ tons of fluorinated chemicals from being released into the environment," says Smalling Luo, KEEN Supply Chain Manager.
Pesticide-Free Insoles for Healthier Ecosystems
Pesticides kill bacteria, but they also kill bees. By using a natural alternative to control odor, we eliminate 7 tons of hazardous chemicals from going into the environment every year. All KEEN insoles are infused with Eco Anti-Odor that uses probiotics, not pesticides. (That’s good news for feet, too.)
"All of our footbeds come in contact with our skin, so I am excited that we are using sustainable yet functional eco-friendly solutions instead of harmful chemicals. These small steps have long-term effects," says Dana Strand, KEEN Senior Global Product Line Manager.
Certified Better Leather for Cleaner Water
Tanning leather is a dirty, resource-intensive process. Our Leather Working Group-certified tanneries are making it much cleaner with solutions that reduce chemicals, energy usage, and water pollution. KEEN only sources environmentally preferred, LWG-certified leather.
"LWG-certified leather encourages environmental improvement in the tanning industry and saves a lot of water, especially for countries like India that often face water scarcity in the summer," says Puga Jagannathan, KEEN Sourcing and Development Manager. "We say, ‘Safe leather, save water.'"
Making shoes is dirty business, a fact that contradicts not only our values, but the very ‘nature’ of the thing we love and cherish the most: Nature! We continue to take every positive step we can to create products that are more sustainable and be a business that uses its economic power for good.
“We're on a journey," says Chris Enlow, Senior Director of the KEEN Effect, our team dedicated to sustainability, advocacy, and philanthropy. "You're going down a trail for 10 miles. It takes time to get there. We should be really proud of what we're doing.”
For more information about how we put our values in motion and create products that step lighter on the planet, read about our approach to sustainability at KEEN.