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Natural Capitalism Case Study: Kleen Kanteen

Klean Kanteen embodies two key components of natural capitalism: radical resource productivity and investment in natural capital.

Not only does Klean Kanteen produce a product that invests in natural capital, specifically eliminating bisphenol A (BPA) from our environment, but also ensures that every step in the manufacturing and distribution process uses resources most effectively. Because of these factors, Klean Kanteen exhibits how businesses can successfully sell and manufacture products without creating a negative environmental impact, perhaps even benefitting the planet and still make a profit.

Strategies of Natural Capitalism

In Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins write, radical resource productivity “is the cornerstone of natural capitalism.” The effective use of resources “slows resource depletion...lowers pollution...and provides a basis to increase worldwide employment with meaningful jobs,” (Natural Capitalism, p.10). At Klean Kanteen, management understands the importance of radical resource productivity, and has integrated it in a meaningful way into their business model.

According to the Klean Kanteen website, the company has adopted a “Code of Conduct” that requires manufacturers to measure and report their annual energy, water, waste, and chemical substance use associated with production. The Klean Kanteen website reads, “Suppliers who wish to be long-lasting partners with Klean Kanteen, or any business seeking to flourish in the unfolding era of resource efficiency requirement, must endeavor to understand and actively manage their use of the natural resources and ecosystem services that underlie all manners of operation and delivery of product and/or service.”

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Also, Klean Kanteen's packaging is recycled from post-consumer waste. Packaging and in-store display items that cannot be made from recycled materials are made from materials certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Even the Klean Kanteen web site is hosted with Canvas Dreams, company that is entirely wind powered. It is important that in their implementation of radical resource productivity, Klean Kanteen monitors their own resource use as well as the resource use of their business partners.

Investment in natural capital involves “reversing worldwide planetary destruction through reinvestments in sustaining, restoring, and expanding stocks of natural capital, so that the biosphere can produce more abundant ecosystem services and natural resources,” (Natural Capitalism, p.19). This includes removing harmful chemicals from our environment, as well as providing for the restoration of natural resources.

Klean Kanteen's primary objective is to eliminate the presence of Bisphenol A (BPA) and create safe portable food and water containers. According to their website, “Klean Kanteen was the first company in the bottle industry to identify BPA as a dangerous and harmful substance.” In this way, Klean Kanteen's product itself is an investment in health. 

BPA was first synthesized in 1891, and since has become a key building block of plastics. According to a 2008 article in Scientific American, “BPA mimics estrogens, binding to the same receptors throughout the human body as natural female hormones. And tests have shown that the chemical can promote human breast cancer cell growth as well as decrease sperm count in rats, among other effects.” 

Studies have also shown that BPA can leach from plastic containers into food when exposed to prolonged use or high temperatures (“Plastic (Not) Fantastic,” Scientific American). Even some water bottles that claim to be BPA free can still contain traces of BPS, which are equally toxic. Prevention magazine reccommends Klean Kanteen's products because they are free of both BPA and BPS (Prevention Magazine – October 2012, p.14).

Klean Kanteen's business practices also work towards restoration of natural resources. In 2009 Klean Kanteen began a renewable energy credits (RECs) program with Green Mountain Energy. Through this program, Klean Kanteen offsets its electricity use at their distributing facilities as well as main offices in Chico, California. The Klean Kanteen staff writes that it has aspirations for their own on-site electricity generation, but in the meantime, “RECs provide the opportunity to support climate-positive actions proportional to the impact we cause by our own facility consumption from the grid.”

Additionally, Klean Kanteen is a member of 1% For The Planet and donates over 1% of profits to organizations such as The Breast Cancer Fund NatureBridge, Environmental Working Group, and Buffalo Field Campaign.


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