September 9, 2015

Steps Toward Sustainability

As attendees walked the multiple aisles at the show in July, it was hard to miss the huge bright green paw print floor decals that could be found at the entrance to various PISC member booths. They were far different from anything we’ve seen on our trade show floors to date. The 19 businesses that participated in the launch of this program and proudly displayed the green paw decals were Barkworthies, CARU, Earthbath, Earth Friendly Products, Doggles, Healthy Pet, Kinn, Inc., KONG Company, Kurgo, Max and Ruffy’s, Molly Mutt, Outward Hound, Pet Age, Piscine Energetics, Planet Dog, Sojos, The Company of Animals, West Paw Design and Worldwise, Inc.

In order to participate in the Green Paw Program, each company was required to take the PISC Quick Impact Assessment. The assessment was developed in partnership with nonprofit B-Lab, which has evaluated more than 27,000 companies around the world using the same questions. The assessment is the starting point for all companies that are looking for a free, confidential review process that benchmarks a company’s sustainability performance.

Together the PISC and each company review their results to identify their next step priorities. These strategies are then organized in executable sustainability roadmaps that are customized for each company.  The ultimate goal is to identify areas of overlap between sustainability and business objectives, and to then deliver programs that simultaneously bring business value while also demonstrating responsibility to the environment, employees and to local and global communities. This entire process is part of a larger PISC program called the Accelerator that transforms a confusing process into a clear pathway companies can follow.

“The Quick Impact Assessment helped us gain significant insight into where our organization was and where we wanted to be.” said Stephanie Volo, co-CEO and partner at Planet Dog. “It was great to have a modified quick version of the assessment and that we were able to work with PISC to identify the most attainable goals first and set off on our path in a manageable and measurable way.”

By participating in the Green Paw program, each company was able to initiate conversations with customers, suppliers and industry partners around the steps they have taken toward a sustainable future. Their participation in the program also helped align them publicly with other likeminded companies and increase awareness of the sustainability movement within the industry.

The 19 companies displaying their Green Paw at the show were also highlighted in PISC’s semi-annual event where host Healthy Pet revealed some of its successes in a recently launched zero-waste program that has not only resulted in financial savings, but also provided an opportunity for employees to feel engaged and valued in the work place.

“We believe it’s important to talk about the work we’re doing around sustainability, not just for the sake of self-promotion, but to ladder up to the bigger conversation—the more important conversation—around the industry’s need to make sustainable business practices a priority,” said Ted Mischaikov, CEO and president at Healthy Pet.

A Coalition for Collaboration

The PISC was founded in 2013 with the mission to accelerate environmental and social sustainability in the pet industry through education, implementation tools and collaboration.  Its goal of sincere sustainability for its members means more than quick wins and good marketing; it has partnered with Natural Capitalism Solutions, the Outdoor Industry Association’s Sustainability Working Group, LoveAnimals.org, B-Corporation, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, GreenBlue and others to provide member companies with the resources and guidance they need to attain continual sustainable improvement.

With 125 member companies, PISC has grown rapidly since its inception and has seen conversation and collaboration around sustainability grow as a result.

“We believe that the greatest advances can be made by sharing the information and experience we have with others. Collaboration, not just within the pet industry but across all industries, is at the root of PISC’s success and will be the driver of future advancements,” said Spencer Williams, president and owner of West Paw Design.

This collaborative mindset is what catalyzed the partnership between PISC and B-Corp in the design of the Quick Impact Assessment. And taking collaboration and dedication a step further, West Paw Design is one of the few pet companies that has gone through the rigorous process of becoming B-Certified. While the PISC Quick Impact Assessment takes only about an hour, the B-Certification provides a more in-depth analysis of each company and ultimately rewards a company able to achieve minimum performance standards to display a consumer facing certification logo to symbolize its achievement. Reputable B-Corp certified companies include Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, Etsy and Patagonia. Retailers like Whole Foods have also showcased B-Certified products in end-cap displays to help its customers find products from companies that are a force for good.

Goals for the Future

With just more than 15 percent of its membership base participating in the launch of the Green Paw Program, PISC is looking forward to the Global Pet Expo in 2016 where it forecasts an even larger number of its member companies will join the movement. To help more fully support its members’ goal at the next show, the PISC is considering several next steps in this program, including hosting retailer tours of Green Paw booths, where companies can expand on their programs to build a stronger brand story for each product.

“The Green Paw Program was developed to applaud those companies in the industry that have taken actionable steps toward a sustainable future,” said Caitlyn Bolton, director at the PISC.

“We believe that a large part of our job is educating business leaders to the bottom-line benefits that sustainability can provide and to support their journey by holding up their industry peers as examples of what is possible,” Bolton said. “In an ideal world, every member of the coalition would have a Green Paw outside their booth, and eventually you will be noticed for not having a Green Paw at your booth instead of being in the select group that do!”

With so many sustainable buzzwords being used in marketing these days, the Green Paw aims to differentiate companies that are serious about evaluating themselves honestly and working toward a future where they do not compromise people or the planet for products that pets love.

The PISC’s member base includes manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, brands and retailers. Its focus is on promoting inclusive collaboration that leverages existing sustainability knowledge and experience to create business-minded solutions for sustainability issues facing companies in the pet industry. If you’d like to learn more, visit www.petsustainability.org.


-Sarah Julian

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