By: Roger Lohr
April 24, 2014
Burton Snowboards in Burlington, VT is working to make snowboarding sustainable well into the future. Burton is the dominant snowboard product company, and this commitment to sustainability can be an example for other businesses in the snow-sports world to emulate.
Two fronts for sustainable efforts include an environmental focus on the full impact of Burton’s operations such as product design, development, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping, and a social focus on the people who support Burton, including factory workers, employees, dealers, riders, and communities.
The environmental focus is generally known in the world of business where each decision takes root with an eco-influence. Since 2008, Burton has focused on improving not just the use of sustainable materials, but the process as a whole. From the production of snowboards and outerwear to luggage and apparel, Burton incorporates a sustainable perspective everywhere possible.
For example, recycled plastic bottles are transformed into pellets spun into thread to create fabric. The bluesign Restricted Substance List has been applied across all Burton factories and product teams are working to get as many bluesign-approved fabrics as possible into Burton lines in future seasons.
In 2012, Burton unveiled an enhanced manufacturing code of conduct and an extensive restricted substances list associated with the company’s finished goods factories and key materials suppliers. Audits of Burton suppliers are now being conducted to evaluate and address Burton’s social and environmental compliance with applicable global regulations and industry “best practices.” A social compliance policy is in place that ensures contracted factories uphold Burton’s standards and meet targets for continuous improvement, and supplier contract clauses deal directly with working conditions.
Ali Kenney, Burton’s global sustainability director commented “We’re seeing great progress throughout our supply chains. We’ve been able to reduce packaging dramatically, we have factories all over the world collaborating with us on an environmental facilities assessment, and we even have factories coming to us with new ideas around sustainability.” Burton has also included an employee-run environmental committee dubbed EPIC (Environmental Protection, Integrity, Conservation) that focuses on fun ways to improve the company’s impact on the environment.
Burton has placed in the top two spots in the Vermont alternative-commuting challenge and has received the silver ranking for a Bicycle Friendly Business by a national bicycle organization. The facility has showers, a secure bike shelter called “The Wheelhouse” and 15 loaner bikes for anyone to use around town. Community-building experiences, like free bagels for alternative commuters, group rides to work, and an annual competition for the most creative commute encourage, green commuting. A partnership with the local transportation agency offers free bus passes to all employees. Carpoolers get preferred parking with the slogan “Two or more, closer to the door. Carpool, fool.”
There are 18 composting and recycling stations throughout Burton’s headquarters and a group sorts through all of it to determine the progress toward zero waste and educate employees. Organic vegetable plots are available on site for employees, who want space to grow their own. More than 6% of all employees tend plots.
In the mornings, Burton employees are offered complimentary organic fruit from a local food co-op and organic coffee and espresso from a Vermont coffee roaster. They’ve also partnered with a local company that supplies locally made organic hand soaps to employees.