Southwest Airlines announced the distribution of products made in Kenya and the U.S. as part of its global upcycling initiative LUV Seat: Repurpose with Purpose. The distribution in Kenya completes the second phase of the multi-year environmental program, which will upcycle approximately 80,000 former airline seat coverings into new leather products to provide valuable training and jobs in several communities in addition to keeping these materials out of a landfill.
“LUV Seat is a program that stays true to the heart of Southwest Airlines,” said Bill Tiffany, Southwest Airlines’ Vice President of Supply Chain Management. “The tremendous results we are already seeing and the strong commitment of these Phase I organizations excite me for the subsequent efforts to come. LUV Seat has fostered the culture of sustainability at Southwest as we look for new ways to upcycle and grow our commitment to global citizenship.”
In Nairobi, nonprofit organizations SOS Children’s Villages Kenya, Alive & Kicking, Maasai Treads, and Life Beads Kenya have provided vocational and skills training for young adults and community members by making shoes, soccer balls, backpacks, wallets, and makeup bags from the used leather. This week, Southwest Airlines donated a majority of the products to youth across a number of villages and organizations across Kenya.
Young adults, ranging in age from 17 to 22, from SOS Children’s Villages Kenya apprenticed in leather works and produced 2,100 pairs of shoes with the local sustainable shoe company Maasai Treads. The shoes are being donated to SOS villages and Ahadi Trust as part of an anti-jigger campaign, and to Cura Orphanage, a residence for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. In addition to making shoes, the young adults learned how to hand-stitch 1,000 soccer balls with Alive & Kicking, which uses sports education campaigns to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and Malaria prevention. Kenya-based GoodMakers Films and the Gina Din Foundation are at the helm of managing the project in Kenya and were instrumental in bringing the diverse organizations together. Additionally, Creative Visions Foundation was invaluable in getting the LUV Seat program off the ground.
“This is an exciting moment in our relationship with Southwest Airlines. We are amazed with the quality of products made by many of our youth and are excited to help distribute these products to children and families in need,” said Lynn Croneberger, CEO of SOS Children’s Villages – USA. “It’s great to know this innovative program will continue to benefit the partner organizations and recipients for years to come.”
In the U.S., Southwest Airlines joined with LooptWorks, a domestic upcycling company, to create high-quality duffle and tote bags, called LUV Seat bags. Through the LUV Seat bags project, LooptWorks provided skills training and jobs for disabled adults. The bags are currently being gifted by Southwest to celebrate the end of the Wright Amendment and will be available for sale to the public starting this month. Southwest Airlines has received praise from Customers and Employees for the unique LUV Seat program, which goes beyond sustainable corporate philanthropy to community development. Using the hashtag #LUVSeat, hundreds of ideas for new partnerships have been shared online. Southwest is looking to incorporate social media feedback to source ideas for additional social enterprise phases of the program, solidifying its commitment to its network and to promoting community.