Image source: Spencer Cotton
Established in 2003, KEEN’s first and most iconic shoe, the Newport sandal, solved an age old problem; how do you get the comfort, ventilation and breathability of a sandal with the protection of a hiking boot. They solved it by producing a sandal which has a rubber toe cap (protecting the toes) with a traditional body and back end. After the launch it soon became popular with the white water rafting and kayaking community before spreading into less niche activities - hiking and travel.
KEEN soon expanded their product line incorporating their signature rubber toe cap into most of their boots and shoes. This ever present focus on protection lead them to start producing workwear boots for building sites and factories.
Staying true to their brand values (Quality, Integrity, Health, Caring and Pioneering) they invested in the community, building their first factory down the road from their head office. It was a chance to provide jobs for local residents, meet the demand for their popular work boots and improve, quality, function and lead time of products.
Today they produce an ever-widening array of walking boots and sandals, enabling their customers to work and play outdoors in comfort and safety. Despite this focus on traditional products they are a company that has not forgotten the concept behind their initial success; innovation and disrupting the industry standard. Their latest shoes are made from a sole, two pieces of elastic, and use robots to thread them together.
One year after the launch of the company, they took a bold choice to scrap all advertising and donate $1m dollars to the Haiti disaster. This set the tone and scale of KEEN's ethical mission.
As well as supporting causes away from home they are big protagonist for help in the community. Donating boot seconds to volunteer building projects and supporting US Troops on their return to America. They also offer grants to environmental education and conservation projects - donating over $15m to date. They are partners with numerous environmental not-for-profit organisations including the 'Leave No Trace' campaign and 'Outdoor Alliance'.
- Leave No Trace
"OUR MISSION-To protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly."
- Outdoor Alliance
“Our mission is to unite the voices of outdoor enthusiasts to protect the human-powered outdoor recreation experience and conserve America’s public lands.”
This ethical stance and determination has lead them to Washington D.C and the White House. After travelling across America to secure 50,000 signatures to protect 5 areas of outstanding beauty and wildlife for future generations they met senators who were able to argue their case and achieve a protected status for those areas.
“At KEEN, our values lead our business decisions. As a brand, we were born with the ethic that leaving the world a better place than how we found it is the right thing to do.”
At their own factory, and throughout their supply chain they demand good working conditions, fair treatment and minimal environmental impact. One example of that is their Portland factory which recycles or re-uses almost all of the materials, limiting their waste to just 11%.
Helping them with this sustainability are partners such as 'Leather working group' and 'Sustainable Apparel Coalition'.
- Leather Working Group
“The objective of this multi-stakeholder group is to develop and maintain a protocol that assesses the environmental compliance and performance capabilities of leather manufacturers and promotes sustainable and appropriate environmental business practices within the leather industry.”
- Sustainable Apparel Coalition
"The Coalition's main focus is on building the Higg Index, a standardised supply chain measurement tool for all industry participants to understand the environmental and social and labour impacts of making and selling their products and services."
Proud to have with teachers, conservationists, illustrators, photographers, climbers and writers represent them, KEEN’s ambassador profile differs from most companies' and reflects their want and need to promote a love of nature to all.
Image sources: KEEN