The Burton Blog

Sustainability and Burton's Future

To be real, the state of snow indicates an issue much greater than ski and snowboard participation.

This past decade’s the warmest on record, and the northern hemisphere has lost more than a million square miles of snowpack since 1970. Despite a few lucky locations getting their fill this season, globally, this winter was weak. Unrecognizable seasons across the east coast, Europe and even Japan confirm that global warming isn’t slowing down.

For your average citizen, the issue at hand might seem overwhelming. It takes a rare blend of confidence, creativity, and attitude to presume that you could make a difference. Add a passion for the outdoors, sustainable living, and relentless work ethic, and you begin to define Burton’s most dedicated members whose purpose is to protect the sport through protecting the environment it requires. Helping lead the charge is our Director of Global Sustainability, Ali Kenney.

Burton Ambassador Liza Tagliati, Burton CEO Donna Carpenter, and Ali share the lift for the Burton Ride Day in Vail, CO.

She’s not alone: Ali’s surrounded by a crew of passionate and like-minded individuals to support the mission outlined with Burton’s CEO and co-founder, Donna Carpenter. For the past several years, they’ve been working with every aspect of Burton’s global business and supply chain to identify opportunities to improve the brand’s impact on our planet and its people.

In honor of Earth Day, we checked in with Ali on the progress we’re making with our footprint.

What’s a day in the life for a member of the Burton Sustainability Department?

One minute we’re talking about our human rights audits in factories, the next we’re discussing green chemistry and product life cycle assessment. We’re working to improve our product, our packaging, our operations and our entire supply chain—that requires many different experts, constant learning about complex topics, and multi-tasking to pull all these diverse pieces together into one cohesive sustainability strategy.

One of the biggest challenges is to get people to realize that we live in a complex system where nothing occurs in a vacuum. Each decision matters, and its impacts ripple out. That includes seemingly small things, like how you treat each person you come into contact with, to larger things like what materials you choose when designing your product, or what products you purchase as a consumer on a daily basis.

"Each decision matters, and its impacts ripple out."

What are some of Burton’s biggest achievements to date?

We set a bunch of lofty three year goals about two-and-a-half years ago. For example, to make sure our factories are 100% audited and meeting our standards—we accomplished that in two years. We also set out to do things like reduce our waste by 50% in three years, and did it in one year. Sustainability is something that makes all of us proud of where we work—which is probably my favorite thing about our efforts—so we’re not just here trying to make and sell things. We’re trying to help make the world a better place, and to put more energy back into it than we take.

Bicycle parking at Burton headquarters in Burlington, VT.

Can you tell us a little more about that auditing project?

We go all over the world to meet our factory owners in person and have powerful conversations with them. We audit to make sure they are following our Code of Conduct and Restricted Substances Policy. For the most part, everyone’s intentions are good. Often, there’s a lack of education about international standards. We aren’t there to catch them doing bad things, but to help them make their factories better, and to create better lives for their workers.

What’s Burton’s role in the industry?

It’s a little frustrating that the snow sports industry has been slow to incorporate sustainability in order to change the way business is done. At Burton, we want to lead the industry so that people in other snow companies can say to their bosses, “look what Burton is doing, we’ve gotta do something, too.” If we all come together and join forces, then we’ll be in a much different place.

Keeping Vermont green: When stuck in a traffic jam on the way to Burton Global Ride Day, some of our employees picked up roadside garbage.
An outline of our sustainability standards and practices.

If people could incorporate a few things into their daily life to help the Earth, what would they be?

Every choice matters. Think about the community around you: The Earth and the people. We need each other to be healthy, so let’s help one another out. Be a positive influence in the world. Give more than you take. Get out of your car, lift your head up from your phone and interact with the world. From there, we’ll build respect for each other and start to realize the impact that we can have. Buy things that last from companies you respect. Consume only what you need. No one is perfect, but thinking about these things is the first step.

Ali stays as active as possible outside, and is planning to through-hike the Long Trail next month.

From what we’ve heard, every day is Earth Day at your house.

We’re building an urban homestead and trying to give back more energy to the world than we take. So we do things like bike year-round (yes, even in snow!), raise chickens for eggs, and save all of our rain water. We grow most of the food we eat, from every kind of fruit (peaches, pears, apples, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, elderberries, etc.) to enough veggies to store and use all winter.

What are Burton’s Earth Day plans?

We produced some awesome reusable bags, laptop, and tablet cases from old Burton US Open signage. We gave Protect Our Winters some of the laptop and tablet bags for a membership drive, and we’re gifting all the bags in our flagship store locations while supplies last. We’re also donating $5 for every purchase to an organization that plants new trees in the places that need it most. ∆

To read more about sustainable efforts at Burton, check out Transworld Business' recent coverage.