In the midst of great strides in sustainability from market giants like Unilever and entire-industry associations like the Outdoor Industry Association that includes environmental leaders like Patagonia and Timberland, the pet industry is now on the verge of starting its own sustainability journey.
A recent partnership between Colorado nonprofit Natural Capitalism Solutions and Chief Instigator Chris Bentley of Only Natural Products and “I and love and you” is about to debut exciting sustainability news at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., next week.
The approach is threefold. The formation of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition, directed by Harvard Sustainability and Environmental Management graduate Caitlyn Bolton, will navigate the sustainability needs of businesses and serve as a playing field for bottom-up and top-down innovation and collaboration. The Coalition is supported by a partnership with Natural Capital Solutions, which will provide a Toolkit to guide coalition members toward greater sustainability achievements. Lastly, an Accreditation component based on voluntary action toward implementation will create trustworthy standards and a universal sustainability language for the industry as a whole.
One of the most impressive components of this partnership is its mission-driven focus as opposed to profit-driven. “The membership structure will always include a free option in order to encourage collaborative participation from all interested parties, we have a ‘more the merrier’ attitude and understand that diverse perspectives accelerate innovation,” said Caitlyn Bolton, executive director, Sustainable Pet Coalition.
Natural Capitalism Solutions lead by Hunter Lovins, a long-time pro-business environmental advocate named “Hero of the Planet” by Time and “Green Business Icon” by Newsweek is in the first phase of 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 drive sustainability forward. "Sustainability drives a business’ profitability but more often than not organizations are scared to embrace what they see as a complex undertaking. 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," said Toby Russell, CEO of Natural Capitalism Solutions.
Other industries that have already had success are eager to share their experiences. “As the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group continues to advocate for convergence around tools, we are looking forward to providing the pet products industry with guidance around how it might utilize the Higg Index framework to benchmark and measure the sustainability of its products, brands and manufacturing facilities. We look forward to collaborating with the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition on this effort,” said Beth Jensen, director of corporate sustainability, OIA.
Chris Bentley, cofounder and chief instigator of the coalition, is well known as one of the founders of Aspen Pet Products—reaching annual sales of over $100 million before selling to Petmate in 2004. “I’ve been passionate about the environment my entire life. 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,” said Chris Bentley, vice president of sales and sustainability, “I and love and you” and Only Natural Pet.
Rock-star companies Kong and Cardinal Laboratories have already differentiated themselves by leading the way as Founding Members of the Coalition. These companies realize that sustainability is a crucial component in the holistic success of a business and they are investing dollars to prove it.
Keep your tails wagging in anticipation and join this groundbreaking initiative by visiting petsustainability.org.