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3 Companies Focused on Sustainability, Innovation and Collaboration


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The Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC) is on a mission. Founded as a nonprofit collaborative in 2013, PSC strives to promote a thriving pet industry by sharing tools and resources that will encourage the implementation of sustainable business practices. 

To further foster this objective, PSC’s Impact Unleashed conference, launched in 2017, brings like-minded business leaders together to network and share their own innovative ideas and challenges. The event’s relaxed, informal environment includes TED-style narratives presented by sustainability minded players within the pet industry. 

The 2018 Impact Unleashed gathering in Denver in September featured Stephanie Volo of Earth Animal, Andy Downs of Only Natural Pet and Tina Nguyen of Jax and Bones. PPN recently caught up with the executives to discuss decreased supply chain risk, implementing sustainability practices, and the creative benefits of a pet industry team effort. 

Stephanie Volo

Earth Animal

In the mid-1970s, veterinarian Dr. Bob Goldstein and his nutritionist wife, Susan, were witnessing epidemic proportions of diabetes, cancer and other diseases in the pets they were treating.

The couple set out to promote change by transitioning into holistic and integrative medicine and opened Earth Animal, a natural health food store for animals, next door to their veterinary practice.

“Earth Animal began its journey by offering alternatives such as wholesome foods, herbal remedies, supplements or preventatives,” said Stephanie Volo, vice president of marketing and sustainability for the Westport, Conn.-based company, which today also manufactures supplements, treats, food and other pet products. “Our company was named Earth Animal for a reason, and our principles are largely built around sustainability.

“Sustainability is in the DNA of Earth Animal,” she added.

In today’s market, consumer demand for trustworthy products is driving the call for sustainability, Volo asserts.

With respect for its heritage, the company is leading a charge for change.

“We are doing the same thing with our higher sustainability promise to preserve and enhance the quality of life for animals, people and the earth,” she said.

With this in mind, Earth Animal is scheduled to commence production of its own manufacturing plant in early 2019. 

“We will be able to control the integrity of our supply chain and feel this is the best way to be as sustainable as possible from an environmental standpoint,” she said.

The time to begin implementing sustainability practices is now, Volo added.

“Millennials are the biggest generation ever,” she said. “These people are very socially responsible and purpose driven.” 

Volo recommended that members of the pet industry embarking on their own journey toward sustainability reach out to PSC.

“The Quick Impact Assessment on the website is free and will provide a benchmark,” she said.

As an Impact Unleashed participant, Volo spoke of the positive energy generated by attendees gathered around a common goal.

“This is a summit unlike anything else in our industry,” she said. “Everyone was connected, asking open questions and sharing.  

“We have needed an organization like PSC in our industry. Members have access to an entire team ready to help others along their sustainability path.”

Andy Downs 

Only Natural Pet

Marty Grosjean founded his first Only Natural Pet store in 2002 with an objective of offering health-conscious, natural products based on strict ingredient standards and formulas optimized for the unique physiologies of dogs and cats. 

By 2006, Only Natural Pet’s own brand had joined other natural products available on the company’s e-commerce site.

“Our brand has grown to include all-natural products in a wide range of categories,” said Andy Downs, sustainability lead for the Boulder, Colo.-based company.

The company’s mission to support long and healthy lives for pets encompasses affection, exercise, diet and shelter while considering the environment and the social intentions of the company. 

“Our standards include a comprehensive list of over 40 unacceptable ingredients that will never be included in our products,” he said.

Support for pets and people throughout the Only Natural Pet communities includes donations, pet adoption events and paid time off for employee volunteerism.

Incorporating innovative solutions to some of the most pressing environmental challenges is another cornerstone to the Only Natural Pet ideology.

For example, Only Natural Pet’s canine PowerFood, PowerFusion, Wholesome Homemade and Mindful Meals foods are each certified carbon-neutral by Carbon Credit Capital, a carbon offset management firm.

“We performed an extensive life-cycle assessment of these products to determine how many greenhouse gas emissions were being produced,” Downs said.

He noted that while addressing sustainability issues might seem complicated, even considering these concerns is a step in the right direction.

“Celebrate your efforts,” he said. “PSC’s Impact Assessment is a great starting point. Businesses can see where they’re already doing great and where efforts can be grown.”

For Downs, joining forces with individuals interested in using their businesses to create a better world was the biggest takeaway from the Impact Unleashed event. 

“Not only did I get some big-picture ideas, but I also learned a lot of practical concepts that can be put into action right away,” he said.

As a founding member, Only Natural Pet’s participation in PSC has been invaluable, Downs added.  

“The smart and dedicated team understands both sustainability and the pet industry, which puts them in a unique position to increase these efforts and make the case for why sustainability is so important,” he said.

Tina Nguyen

Jax and Bones

Tina Nguyen, founder and designer of Jax and Bones, loved her corporate career in the restaurant industry, but she hated leaving her beloved beagle, Jax, home alone for extended periods of time. To ease her conscience, she purchased a wide variety of toys for her pup, but the pet products available left much to be desired.

“I was finding items filled with chemicals, and nothing was human grade,” Nguyen said.

So Nguyen began designing her own products and, in 2004, Jax and Bones was born, specializing in luxury bedding, durable toys and accessories. Today, a production, manufacturing and distribution plant, located in Baldwin Park, Calif., supports a 35-member-strong staff. 

Manufacturing in the USA and keeping labor close to home are defining factors.

“Every pet bed that leaves our warehouse is sewn by our team,” she said. 

USA sourced and made, the filling in each bed is made with polyfill from recycled plastic bottles. 

“In the last few years, the industry has definitely changed and is really focused on the eco-friendly, sustainable aspect of production,” she said. 

Jax and Bones also focuses on giving back.

For example, Jax and Bones’ Good Karma rope toys are hand tied and dyed using nontoxic vegetable dyes, with 10 percent of sales proceeds benefiting rescue and animal welfare groups.

“In fall 2018, we launched a nationwide product line: Rowdy Rescuers,” she said. 

The aim of the new line is to support passionate groups within the animal community, and to raise awareness of the plights of domestic pets and farm animals.

For those in the pet industry ready to start developing their own sustainability goals, Nguyen offers this advice: “A company should focus on what they do best, believe it, live by it,” she said. “It has to come from within.” 

Nguyen said Impact Unleashed was an inspiring event.

“It’s a very noncompetitive and motivating environment,” she said. “It’s interesting to be standing with a competitive colleague, feeling that we are on the same team as we strive to do more. It puts us all in the same arena.”

For these reasons, Nguyen values her PSC membership.

“We are a group of strong minds that comes together to achieve a larger goal,” she said. By Lizett Bond

 

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