Speaker Interview: Chris Enlow, Senior Director of KEEN Effect
Prior to his participation in the Foam Expo 2020 Conference, we spoke to Chris Enlow, senior direct of KEEN Effect, about his work with the footwear brand and the challenges he anticipates in expanding the bio-based products market.
For the past 20 years, Enlow has been passionate about giving back, from restoring Bulgarian hiking trails with the Peace Corp and feeding the hungry with a South Carolina food bank, to helping establish a historic preservation non-profit in Jamaica. Chris joined KEEN in 2006 and dreams big around protecting public lands, disaster relief support, and supply chain responsibility. His work inspires colleagues to take similar ownership and shine.
Could you tell us about your role at Keen and what your day to day responsibilities are?
In my role at KEEN, as the senior director of KEEN Effect, I oversee the company’s strategy and actions around philanthropy, advocacy, and sustainability. On a typical day, I might be reviewing RSL audit documents, discussing how to gather data from our PLM Management System for product-specific sustainability information, being interviewed by media publications on our non-profit partnerships, or working with our HR team on an upcoming employee volunteering project. Suffice to say, I wear a lot of hats at the organization and can easily transition from HR to product to Ops to PR, etc. depending on the day and subject matter. When it comes to sustainability, we cover a range of different strategies – and one area is materials. This is where my interaction with bio-based materials comes in.
How important is sustainability to Keen and what can other companies learn from your initiatives?
KEEN is a family-owned, values-led business. Sustainability is a foundation of the brand and it is what draws people to work at KEEN. We’re nowhere close to perfect and we have a long journey ahead. What companies can learn from KEEN about sustainability is fairly straightforward… just begin! Find wins, build on this momentum and celebrate achievements and the actions of employees along the way. Also, always consider the precautionary principle in everything that you do; don’t use what you don’t need.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in expanding the bio-based products market in the near future?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge in commercializing bio-based material products boils down to availability and cost in a highly scattered supply chain. Bio-based products are still relatively new to the market; being able to access them in multiple countries means availability of the chemicals and facilities on a case by case basis. We want to be able to make our products uniformly bio-based rather than just implementing them in countries with the existing infrastructure. The supply chain must be there, and the quality assurance must be there also.
What are you most excited to learn more about at the Foam Expo conference in March 2020?
I am most excited to learn from larger companies on their efforts to use bio-based products. I would like to hear their perspectives on what the pros and cons are. Plus, I am very much interested in meeting new bio-based foam providers that can offer transformative innovation to replace EVA and PU foams. I think the cooperation of larger and smaller companies is key to building a circular economy. We need to work together on this project and learn from one another.
If you could invite one famous person to dinner (alive or deceased) who would it be and why?
I’d invite Henry Ford and ask him what he learned about bio-based products back in 1941. I recently learned that during the Second World War, because there was a shortage of petrochemical products many American companies began to look for alternatives. Plastics were produced using soy and hemp amongst many other materials. The wartime shortage could serve as inspiration for today’s generation.
Chris Enlow will be presenting at Foam Expo North America 2020 Conference in 'Understanding the Market'.