Report: The pressure is on for more sustainable pet products

From organically grown pet food to ecologically friendly chew toys, the pet industry is feeling the pressure to produce more socially and environmentally sustainable pet products.

The Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC), in collaboration with the World Pet Association, interviewed more than 250 pet industry professionals to find out their views of corporate sustainability, insights on consumer demand for environmentally friendly pet products, and suggestions on how the industry can meet the challenges of a changing business landscape.

They published their findings in a new report, Looking Towards a Sustainable Pet Industry.

Corporate sustainability can be defined as “resiliency over time,” a state achieved through a combination of economic efficiency, social equity, and environmental accountability.

When asked to look ahead into the next five years, 91% of respondents said they expect the demand for environmentally friendly and socially conscious companies to increase—and quickly.

Yet 36% of those surveyed say their company doesn’t have any kind of sustainability program. Of those companies that do have a sustainability program, only 23% of respondents rated their companies’ as “effective” or “very effective.”

And that’s actually down 7% from a similar 2015 survey.

When asked to rate the current sustainability of the pet product industry as a whole, a large majority gave it a mediocre grade of “somewhat sustainable.” Only 16% rated it as “sustainable” or “extremely sustainable.”

The report concludes that “the pet industry is committed to making a positive impact on the environment and on our communities. The overwhelming majority of industry professionals who participated in the survey say that their company’s impact matters to them,” but adds that “sustainability is about more than just numbers, and implementing sustainable practices is more than just caring—it is a good business strategy.”

Participants identified the top three areas of opportunity to achieve better sustainability:   

  • Employee attraction and retention
  • Sourcing raw ingredients and materials
  • Packaging

The PSC believes that the keys to sustainability are collaboration and community.

A nonprofit membership organization founded in 2013 by a group of eight pet product companies to promote sustainable business practices and products in the pet industry, the PSC now has more than 80 members, including PetSmart, Royal Canin, and KONG, and provides access to education, tools, and collaborative processes to encourage profitable environmental and social business practices.

“A core tenet of what we do is making a difference in the world,” KD Frueh, president of KONG, told NEWStat. Maker of the iconic red-rubber treat-dispensing KONG dog toy, KONG was one of the eight founding members of the PSC.

“An attention to sustainability, whether it’s through our recycled rubber program or solar power, is one of the ways we bring this to life,” Frueh said. “Key partnerships with organizations such as the PSC are a key area where we are able to learn and share and come together collectively . . . and act as a cornerstone of change within the industry.”

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