Klean Kanteen

Sunday 11 June 2017, by Savannah Bristow

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A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Klean Kanteen is the first environmentally-friendly, reusable bottle created free of BPA and other dangerous toxins. It is a family owned and run company that started in Chico, California but has factories in China. First introduced in 2004, Klean Kanteens are made of food grade stainless steel with double wall vacuum insulation to keep beverages hot for upwards for 25 hours and cold for 90. Their products range from insulated bottles and cups to growlers and canisters. Klean Kanteen’s mission is to produce “excellent products designed to last that are 100% healthy and safe for consumers”. They do this through various projects and policies.

  • Bring Your Own project: encourages customers around the world to waste less by using their reusable bottles which are better for the earth and their health.
  • Manufacturing: products are handmade in Chinese factories that are regulated to be socially and environmentally responsible. This allows them to offer exceptional products at an exceptional price. They meet various high quality standards of fair labor and ethical business such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

The owners, Jeff Cresswell and Michelle Kalerer are at the forefront of the company’s environmental/societal policies.
"At Klean Kanteen, our commitment to you and the planet drives everything we do. From our stainless steel creations to the company we keep, we are firmly fixed on the task of making healthy, high-quality goods that will faithfully replace a lifetime of single-use items. Our hope is that you will go forth and re-use our products for years and even decades to come. One cup, bottle, and container at a time adds up... to big results."- Jeff and Michelle, Co-Owners, Brother and Sister
Klean Kanteen got its big break in 2007 when the extent of the dangers of BPA was revealed in the media, and the world scrambled to find a safe, healthy, and environmentally-friendly replacement to their plastic bottles. Klean Kanteen was able to fill this void and became one of the biggest bottle manufacturers in the industry.
From the start, Klean Kanteen has maintained their commitment to lowering their own as well as their customer’s ecological footprints. In 2008 they became members of 1% For The Planet, as they continue to donate more than 1% of their sales to nonprofits protecting the planet. In 2012, they became a certified B Corporation after meeting and surpassing the B Corp standards of performance, transparency, and accountability. In addition to all their business policies in support of the environment and ethical working conditions, Klean Kanteen also partners with various nonprofits and philanthropic organizations that work to educate the public on health, safety, and environmental issues.
Klean Kanteen is the perfect example of an “a business that successfully combines the creation of economic values with the respect of ethical values” because it delivers total value. That means it provides a product that has practical benefits (a reusable water bottle that is better for health and saves the customer money) but also negates their remorse (by providing environmental and societal benefits by using greener materials and engaging in philanthropy).

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

Quality Control and Health:

  • Klean Kanteen was the first company to realize and publically announce the dangerous effects of BPA, a common substance in many water bottles. Instead, Klean Kanteen uses 18/8 stainless steel which is safe for food contact according to the FDA and France and Germany’s more stringent standards.
  • Klean Kanteen has factories in China that are monitored by representatives living in China. They communicate with managers and workers “to ensure implementation of production and quality control practices that result in delivery of consistent, safe Klean Kanteen products”.
  • Klean Kanteen regularly tests their products through accredited third-party laboratories all over the world to ensure the safety and quality of their products. Code of Conduct and Safety:
  • Klean Kanteen maintains a Code of Conduct with their suppliers and vendors based on “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”. They work towards this Code of Conduct to ensure consistency in health and safety standards, fair working conditions, reduction of waste, increased efficiency, and overall prosperity.
  • An important part of their Code of Conduct calls for suppliers to track and document the product’s materials from start to finish in order to provide easy traceability and ensure high quality. Employee Care and Welfare:
  • “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”.
  • Klean Kanteen employees are of utmost importance to the company. They are provided with significant health benefits, retirement bonuses, and maternity/paternity bonuses. Social Responsibility:
  • Klean Kanteen places an emphasis on not only open communication with their customers, but also on educating the public on health, sustainability, and environmental responsibility.
  • In 2005, Klean Kanteen started building an online community through a weekly newsletter, where people came together to discuss the latest topics relating to waste reduction and the environment. This community now includes like-minded companies and NGOS who collaborate with Klean.
  • Klean Kanteen is politically active to help protect the health of the people and the planet through pollution and toxin reduction. In 2009, they wrote letters to the California State Assembly to prohibit the sale of products containing BPA. Environmental Sustainability:
  • “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”.
  • Klean Kanteen’s Code of Conduct requires suppliers to report their annual energy, water, waste, and chemical use associated with Klean Kanteen production. This is to encourage other companies to manage and control their use of natural resources.
  • Klean Kanteen has an abundance of initiatives they follow and organizations they are a part of to promote going green:
    • Green Mountain Energy: using RECs to cover electricity usage
    • Green Shipping Program: helps fund carbon offsets equal to the carbon footprint caused by shipping
    • Shipping: all materials used are recycled from “post-consumer waste” or certified by FSC
    • Outdoor Industry Association’s Sustainability Working Group: create tools to allow business to self-evaluate their environmental impact
    • California Business Alliance for Green Economy: businesses working to promote “clean energy and climate security”

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

B-corporation:
Being a certified B corporation is a very positive and notable achievement in the eyes of our team because of the stringent standards that must be met in order to be considered a part of this exclusive community of businesses. B-corps must meet specific social and environmental standards along with a respected level of transparency and accountability to achieve the coveted title. The B-lab is a nonprofit organization that is widely trusted and accepted as a credible source, making the certification even more impressive.

1% for the Planet:
In October of 2008, Klean Kanteen became one of some 1300 odd companies who make up the organization 1% for the Planet, which involves donating 1% of gross annual sales to nonprofit organizations that vow to help the environment and have been proven successful in their endeavors. This philanthropic behavior resonates with our team because we believe that giving back falls under the corporate social responsibilities of a corporation, and Klean Kanteen has chosen to do so in the arena they feel most passionate about, which is inspiring to all.

Local Community:
Our team has strong roots in Northern California, as we attend university in the region and were raised in neighboring cities that share many traits with the small California town of Chico. This connects us deeply to the community aspect of Klean Kanteen’s business policy, and resonates with us on a person level. The company works to support their community by donating product to local organizations and schools for use in events and fundraisers, providing free and clean water stations at local events and celebrations, and sponsoring and participating in local events such as the Run for Food, Chico Wildflower Century Ride, Walk for Water, The Bidwell Park and Chico Creek Clean up, and many more. All of these are ways for Klean Kanteen employees to feel connected to their local community and allow for a relationship to be built between producer and consumer, which is important in today’s world of business. It also allows for local businesses to succeed because of the increased support from a thriving company with a similar background to model themselves after.

Environmental Concerns:
At Klean Kanteen, sustainability is a core value of the company’s founders, and for this reason environmental consciousness plays a key role in the business’s day to day operations. When the first Klean Kanteen water bottle was created in 2002, Robert Seals’ main focus was releasing a product that would reduce the use of plastic waste from disposable water bottles and boost awareness of the damage these products are doing while providing a green and feasible alternative. Not only is the product itself allowing for a more green planet, but the company’s behind-the-scenes production is also sustainable in that they “compost and recycle in office facilities, use 100% renewable energy at corporate facilities, sell food and beverage containers made from 75% recycled/environmentally prefered materials, [and] purchase carbon credits to offset >50% of greenhouse gas emissions.” All of these steps lead our team to believe in Klean Kanteen and trust their practices because of the actions they continuously take to back up their environmentally-friendly claims.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

Although the company’s headquarters are based in Chico, California, Klean Kanteen’s production facilities are located in China. This developing nation is known to be home to many sweatshops and is a breeding ground for the exploitation of disadvantaged workers. The company has addressed the public’s concern for unfair labor practices by administering regular facility visits by “Klean Kanteen and its representatives,” third-party social audits, and placing a representative on-site for observation during production. Though these are steps in the right direction, the company should continue to work towards practicing fair labor techniques by ensuring a living wage for all workers that is continuously adjusted for inflation and other market changes, ensuring fair and commendable working conditions as well as partnering with suppliers and other collaborators with similar admirable practices in place.
Moving forward, it will be difficult for Klean Kanteen to keep their prices competitive as many new companies are emerging in this once unexplored market. The “sustainability movement” has rapidly grown in popularity recently, specifically with the young urban crowd, and therefore many “green” companies have risen to meet this new demand for environmentally-friendly consumables. This means an increase in competition for Klean Kanteen, potentially with corporations who choose to cut-corners and exploit labor, which would make competing (while maintaining morals) impossible.

Bibliography

B corporation:
https://www.bcorporation.net/community/klean-kanteen
Klean Kanteen International:
http://international.kleankanteen.com
Klean Kanteen:
https://www.kleankanteen.com
Criticism:
http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2011/10/04/kanteensploitation/
1% for the Planet:
https://www.onepercentfortheplanet.org
Fast Company:
https://www.fastcompany.com/1743940/forget-treehuggers-five-ways-attract-less-stereotypical-green-consumer

Location: Chico (United States of America)

Sector: Accommodation and food service activities

Official website: http://www.kleankanteen.com

Nbr. visits: 40