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The Californian family business Klean Kanteen was quick to recognise the effects of the high consumption of plastic on people and the environment. The basic idea was to offer a sustainable alternative to disposable products. Luna Journal spoke with Jeff Cresswell, co-founder of Klean-Kanteen, about Klean Kanteen’s corporate philosophy and the challenges that had to be overcome when the company was founded.
How did you come up with the idea of bringing sustainable alternatives to disposable products to the market?
Jeff Cresswell, co-founder of Klean-Kanteen: It was Robert Seals, the inventor and founder of Klean Kanteen, who came up with this idea in 2002. He saw the environmental problems caused by disposable plastics and the health consequences associated with plastics containing BPA. So he began to make the first prototype of a stainless steel bottle with “ingredients” from the local DIY store. In 2004, he launched the 27oz Klean Kanteen to offer consumers a safer option to plastic and aluminium-lined bottles.
In 2005, the Klean Edge Torch was then passed on to the Cresswell family. We have built on Seal’s original vision and developed a growing range of durable stainless steel solutions to replace BPA containing plastics and reduce contamination from disposable packaging.
What material do you use to produce your Classic water bottles?
Klean Kanteen always uses 18/8 food safe stainless steel.
What was the biggest challenge for you when you founded your company?
From an operational point of view, we had to clean up at the beginning and make a brand change with a focus on developing a brand that you fall in love with and want to share with friends and family.
Another challenge that still accompanies us today is the fact that, as a family business, we have limited budgets and therefore the financing of our growth is sometimes difficult. However, in order to remain true to our values and principles, we gladly accept this challenge.
What should be considered when setting up an environmentally friendly business?
First and foremost, the commitment to be a responsible company must come from above. The entire management team must share common values and support the company’s mission and practices. Hiring a sustainability manager who sets up programs and puts a checkmark behind all important issues does not make an organization authentic unless there is a deep commitment to corporate responsibility on the part of management.
Being an environmentally friendly company doesn’t just mean maintaining a recycling program and using 100% recycled paper in the company headquarters printer. Rather, you need to look at the interactions between your company and the environment. You need to quantify the impact of this interaction on such things as energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions, water demand and quality, material consumption, waste production and chemistry, and then use this information to make decisions to reduce your “footprint”.
By manufacturing a “green” product, you are committed to a higher standard than other companies. How do you minimise the environmental impact of manufacturing your products?
Green thinking embodies the true culture of Klean Kanteen. Our company philosophy is: “We provide simpler solutions that inspire healthy choices and benefit the people and places where we live and play”.
As a company that makes products, we want to understand and measure the environmental impacts of our production, such as waste production, water needs, energy consumption and chemicals. We can then use this information to help shape the planning and development process of a new product or product improvement. We use Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to assess the impact of a product. This allows us to use LCA during the early stages of product development to shape the design and use of materials. This allows us to achieve improvements in the overall environmental impact of our product with regard to its manufacture, use and end of life cycle.
Your corporate philosophy includes environmental protection and fair working conditions. How do you implement these in your company?
We evaluate and manage suppliers in our supply chain using the Klean Kanteen Supplier Code of Conduct. We commit service providers who carry out an external evaluation of our suppliers every year on the basis of our Code of Conduct. The results of this assessment are reviewed and any corrective action is communicated to suppliers and their implementation followed up. If the supplier needs training to implement the corrective action plan, we have a program to reimburse the supplier for training fees if it can be shown that corrective action has been taken.
To what extent do you want to give children environmental awareness?
Education is the most important aspect of environmental awareness. As a corporate member of 1% for the Planet, we are committed to donating 1% of our sales to charitable organizations dedicated to protecting and preserving the natural environment in which we live. A key focus of our fundraising activity is environmental protection, with priority given to charitable organisations that work to bring young people out into the wild. One of our key partners in this area is Nature Bridge, whose mission is to offer practical, multi-day environmental science programs outdoors, in nature’s “classroom”.
As an organization, we believe that children are the guardians of the future and believe that every child should come into contact with environmental science in their education. And getting children to experience and love the outdoors leads them to want to protect these places. We firmly believe in this.
Since 2008, Klean Kanteen has donated more than $1 million of his sales to environmental organizations to make more than 1% for the Planet a positive change effort. What are your goals in this regard for the coming years?
In fact, we broke the $2 million donation barrier in 2017 and currently stand at $2.4 million as of October 2018. We would like to make it $3 million in the near future. We will continue to focus on supporting organizations with donations that focus on our 4 priorities:
- Conservation of land and water
- Environmental protection
- Contamination by plastic waste
- Safe consumer products
In 2012 Klean Kanteen received certification as a “B Corporation” from the non-profit organization B Lab. What does certification mean to you? Does certification as a “B Corporation” strengthen your authenticity with end customers?
As a certified B Corp, we are part of a movement that includes over 2200 global companies that meet high social and environmental standards for transparency, accountability and performance. What does that mean for us? That we do it right!
In terms of consumer perception, our B Corp. involvement plays a central role in differentiating us from our competitors and is highly valued by both our commercial and consumer customers. Certification strengthens our authenticity to all target groups (B2B & B2C).
Where can your products be purchased? Which markets would you like to open up?
Our products can be purchased worldwide in many different types of shops. Klean Kanteen can be found online, in food, sports, kitchen and gift shops, in cafés, pharmacies, breweries and countless other shop locations.
How much plastic is estimated to be saved by using reusable products compared to disposable products?
The average American can replace 167 plastic bottles a year with a reusable bottle.
How much can you save by using reusable products?
For example, each of us consumes an average of 38,000 straws in our lives. So by buying a Klean Kanteen Straw you can easily eliminate a huge amount of waste with a single product.
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Image: Klean Kanteen