Keen Inc. said it has established an open-sourced model for how it creates PFC-free footwear. To support this initiative, Keen issued a challenge to the outdoor footwear industry to be PFC-free by 2025.

PFCs are a class of about 5,000 fluorinated chemicals, known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyls, often called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment. The chemicals are toxic and 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 in Scientific American described this widespread problem saying, “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.

Through the application of the “Precautionary Principle,” Keen was able to find and remove PFCs that were being applied to components and materials unnecessarily. Keen performed a complete audit of every component that goes into its products and worked with vendors and partners that could quickly remove about 65 percent of the PFCs within its supply chain. For the remaining 35 percent, Keen invested time and resources over four years, working with experts in the development of non-PFC water repellency solutions.

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.

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Photo courtesy Keen