LUV Seat: Repurpose with Purpose was developed following the Company's Evolve program, a large-scale redesign of all 737-700 aircraft, a portion of its 737-300 fleet, and is now standard on all new planes. The Evolve program replaced the leather seat covers and other interior elements with environmentally friendly materials. Through this redesign, Southwest reduced the weight of each aircraft by more than 600 pounds.
LUV Seat is an innovative upcycling project born from the Evolve program. By donating the used leather for social impact and keeping it out of landfills, Southwest Airlines is reinforcing its commitment to long-term global sustainable business operations and positioning itself as a leader in corporate responsibility.
"The Evolve redesign was a major milestone in supporting our sustainability goals," said Bill Tiffany, Vice President Supply Chain Management at Southwest Airlines. "But we didn't want to stop there—with the pilot of LUV Seat in Nairobi, Malawi, and the United States, we're embarking on a new vision of social impact through training, job creation, and ultimately product donation. We look forward to identifying additional partners through a call to action, using the hashtag #LUVSEAT, for our Employees, Customers, and the general public to share their ideas of how we should upcycle the remaining leather."
These initiatives are the first phase of a multi-year campaign to re-use Southwest's leather through upcycling projects around the world. The project partners aim to better people's lives and raise industry standards for the environment and communities in which they operate.
In Nairobi, Kenya (the project's pilot location), SOS Children's Villages Kenya, the primary non-profit partner that serves orphaned children and families in need, along with Alive & Kicking, Masaai Treads, and Life Beads Kenya, will use the leather to produce goods for distribution to local community groups.
"We are pleased to join with Southwest Airlines and thank them for launching the LUV Seat: Repurpose with Purpose program to benefit SOS Children's Villages in Kenya," said Lynn Croneberger, CEO of SOS Children's Villages – USA. "It's a fantastic, innovative program that will help make a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable women and children and the local community."
Through the partnership, SOS youth will receive paid apprenticeships and training to make shoes and soccer balls from the leather. When completed, the shoes will be distributed as part of an anti-jigger campaign. The upcycled soccer balls will be donated to support education programs that use sports to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and Malaria prevention.
One recipient of the donated products is Cura Orphanage, a residence for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. Cura Orphanage is sponsored by Creative Visions Foundation, a non-profit that supports media and the arts to affect change in the world. Local partners Gina Din Foundation and GoodMaker Films worked with Southwest to develop the on-the-ground partnerships.
Other partners include, TeamLift, Inc. a U.S.-based nonprofit whose mission is to transform the lives of women and children in Sub-Saharan Africa. At a boarding school facility currently under construction in Malawi, TeamLift will develop a leather works training program that will teach important entrepreneurial skills while generating proceeds that will support the school.
In the United States, Looptworks, a Portland, Ore., based design company that rescues premium excess materials to design and produce sustainable goods will upcycle LUV Seat leather into limited edition, high-quality merchandise as part of Southwest's celebration of the end of the Wright Amendment in Dallas. Through partnering with Looptworks, Southwest will create needed jobs in a region that has been hard hit by the downturn in the economy.