Commerce with a Conscience: Klean Kanteen

August 5, 2016

by Aaron Bible
Commerce with a Conscience: Klean Kanteen

Stainless Steel water bottle pioneer Klean Kanteen has done extraordinary work to keep single-use plastic water bottles out of our oceans and landfills.

A leader in BPA-free, stainless steel drinkware and food transport, Klean Kanteen is family owned and operated, with distribution in 40-plus countries worldwide. With environmental stewardship and fair labor central to the company’s philosophy, Klean has donated more than $1.5 million since 2008 to environmental organizations through its memberships with 1% for the Planet. From non-profit partnerships to grassroots events, Klean works closely with aligned companies and organizations to support health, reduction of single-use plastic, and environmental education and awareness.

Trashed Car from Klean Kanteen on Vimeo.

We sat down with director of marketing Erika Bruhn at the recent Outdoor Retailer trade show to find out more about the ethos and environmental commitment behind this now iconic brand. 

How do you think you got to where you are today?

In one year, Americans use 58 billion to-go cups and 35 billion plastic water bottles. As a family-owned company on a mission, we introduced the first stainless steel, BPA-free, reusable water bottle in 2014 because we wanted a nontoxic solution to single-use trash. Today, as a certified B-Corporation, we do everything we can to keep single-use waste from trashing the world. In a category filled with a variety of material options and offerings oriented towards innovation or product for product’s sake, the simplicity of Klean Kanteen is unique. Many plastic bottle brands claim to be BPA free and non-toxic. While that may or may not be accurate, more and more studies show growing concern over plastics, including plastic liners in aluminum bottles. When it comes to health and safety, earth-based (rather than man-made) materials like stainless steel and silicone inspire confidence. Our products undergo some of the most rigorous consumer products testing (we meet and exceed multiple high-bar standards globally such as FDA, CPSIA, California Prop 65 and REACH) available, carry a Strong as Steel™ guarantee, help reduce our collective reliance on plastic, and provide opportunities to make healthier choices. Consumers are attracted to Klean’s simple, beautifully designed, and eco-friendly bottles.

Our Klean Design approach is responsible, and considers health, safety, versatility, functionality, beauty, and end of life into each product solution. If our products don’t solve a problem around waste or health, we don’t make them – period.

Why is it such an integral part of the Klean Kanteen mission to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic bottles?

We are really proud of inspiring and being a part of the category’s growth around reusables.  Insulated products are in demand right now and we’ve seen a lot of success from our new Vacuum Insulated Classic line across sales channels in the past year. That growth is fueling ways to make products healthier and less toxic, more sustainable and long-lasting, and super convenient in an effort to remove barriers to changing to a reusable lifestyle. We have made progress eliminating single-use plastic with our Cup Karma program, which we have implemented at over 50 events, festivals, races, and concerts across the US as well as several zero waste events across the country. 

How does being a B Corp affect product development and marketing? And how do you stay competitive in an increasingly saturated market of insulated beverage products? 

In 2012, Klean became a B-Corp, a natural step as part of our commitment to maximize social and environmental impact. Klean has organized the company to focus on metrics that truly matter – and create benefit for the environment, community, supply chain and more. We are employee owned, a certified B Corporation and 1% for the Planet member, and we will continue to focus on sustainability, how we make product and run our company, and how we support our communities. We see increasing demand for good brands/companies driven by creating change, and we offer consumers a long-lasting, sustainable, eco-friendly product that lasts a lifetime.

We stay competitive through innovation and a solutions-based approach to new product. For us, it’s not just about creating new stuff – as a B-Corp and 1% member, we are committed to using our profitability for social good, creating sustainable products that serve a purpose and create benefit for the people and places where we live and play.


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