The pet industry embarks on an industry-wide sustainability journey with the recent formation of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition. The new group is like a brain trust of industry vets and green rock stars on a Noah's Ark of progressive thinking, lifted by the rising tide of sustainability in business, buoyed by waves like the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group.
The Colorado nonprofit Natural Capitalism Solutions and Chief Instigator Chris Bentley of Only Natural Products and "I and love and you" pet products are partnering to fuel the new coalition, which features a mission-driven approach. Natural Capitalism Solutions, led by Hunter Lovins, iconic pro-business environmental advocate (named "Hero of the Planet" by Time, and "Green Business Icon" by Newsweek), is developing an interactive web-based platform including a variety of learning modules and sustainability implementation tools that will serve the pet business community and provide them with the resources they need to move sustainability forward.
"Sustainability drives a business' profitability but more often than not organizations are scared to embrace what they see as a complex undertaking," said Toby Russell, CEO of Natural Capitalism Solutions. "We are very excited to be part of a coalition that will help educate organizations in the pet industry and bring them all the resources they need to create and implement a sustainability program." The tools they provide may do for sustainability progress in the pet industry what the Chuckit did for the game of fetch.
Chris Bentley, co-founder of the coalition, is one of the founders of Aspen Pet Products, which reached annual sales of over $100 million before selling to Petmate in 2004. "I've been passionate about the environment my entire life," he said. "It's time to apply my passion and 23 years of experience in the pet business toward facilitating sustainable progress in the pet industry and protecting the resources our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren deserve."
Harvard Sustainability and Environmental Management graduate Caitlyn Bolton, the new coalition's executive director, will help members navigate the sustainability needs of businesses for bottom-up and top-down innovation and collaboration. The group will also manage an accreditation process based on voluntary action toward implementation to create trustworthy standards and a universal sustainability language for the industry as a whole.
Greening kibbles could change more than a bit. According to the Packaged Facts report, "Natural-Organic-and-Eco-Friendly-Pet-Products-in-the-U-S-Edition," combined sales of natural pet foods and natural pet care products will grow by 10 to 15 percent over the period from 2014-17. Sales are projected to reach $9.4 billion by 2017, up from an estimated $4.1 billion in 2012.
Kong, producer of the bouncy, rubber, stuff-able toy that is the greatest thing to hit the dog world since tennis balls started coming in three-packs, has already signed on to the coalition. If all goes well, the Dog Whisperer may start cooing Lorax lullabies and the champagne toast at Westminster will be organic.