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US footwear brand Keen shares resource for PFC-free footwear

02 Apr '21
3 min read
Pic: Keen Footwear
Pic: Keen Footwear

Keen, the footwear brand which intends to make the outside inclusive and accessible to all, has set up an open-sourced model for how it creates PFC-free footwear. The model details of the detox process Keen followed since 2014 to eliminate PFCs from its supply chain. It has also issued a challenge to the outdoor footwear industry to be PFC free by 2025.

PFCs are a class of about 5,000 fluorinated chemicals, also known as PFAS — or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, often called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment. These toxic chemicals enter the environment where the chemicals, components and finished products are manufactured, often through contaminated water or waste, and spread easily. A January 2021 study by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organisation, in Scientific American says, "The drinking water of a majority of Americans likely contains 'forever chemicals.' These compounds may take hundreds, or even thousands, of years to break down in the environment. They can also persist in the human body, potentially causing health problems."

"We spent the last seven years researching, developing and refining what is now a proven process to eliminate PFCs from our products without sacrificing performance, and we want to share this for the common good," said Erik Burbank, vice president, The Keen Effect. "By keeping PFCs and PFASs out of our supply chain and products, we've kept 180 tons of fluorinated chemicals out of the environment over the last seven years. We want to share this, so other brands can become PFC-free much faster. This is a constant battle and time is critical; if we collaborate, we can accelerate the positive impact and our planet will be a better place."

Keen estimates it committed 10,000 hours to reach its goal of becoming PFC-free and invested well into seven figures to support this effort.

"Our institute applauds Keen's visionary leadership in completely ridding all of their products of harmful PFAS, the world's most persistent class of chemicals," said Arlene Blum, executive director, Green Science Policy Institute. "What's even better is that they are generously sharing how they did it. We hope the outdoor industry will quickly follow their lead, stopping the use of PFAS to protect people and the planet."

Through the application of the "Precautionary Principle," Keen was able to find and remove PFCs that were being applied to components and materials unnecessarily. Specifically, Keen performed a complete audit of every component that goes into their products and worked with vendors and partners that were able to quickly remove about 65 per cent of the PFCs within its supply chain.

For the remaining 35 per cent, Keen invested significant time and resources over four years, working with experts in the development of non-PFC water repellency solutions. This included thousands of hours of lab and field testing before ultimately delivering safe, effective and affordable options.

Keen's Detox the Planet Initiative was established in 2012 to take proactive action to identify and remove harmful chemicals in its supply chain and replace them with safe and effective alternatives.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (SV)

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