In the beginning, consumers began demanding products that were safer for pets (i.e. high quality pet food) and better for the environment. We're now at a point where consumers are asking for sustainable practices and issues regarding things like the waste produced during the manufacturing process.
As the demand for responsible business practices grows, companies taking note. Large corporations are implementing small changes which take them baby steps closer to where we need to be to better sustain the planet.
Yet, even as customers ask for these practices, one question still remains at the top of mind: is sustainability a viable option for small businesses with a lower budget? Additionally, is it something that will actually increase sales, or is it just hype?
A 2015 Nielson survey asked respondents whether they would pay more for a product if they knew the company was committed to positive social and environmental change, and 66% said they would.
Beyond that, according to a report on sustainability and consumer trends, 75% of consumers are more likely to buy a product if the company is making an effort to be sustainable.
In other words, incorporating responsible and sustainable practices in your pet business is not only smart for the environment, but it's also smart for your business. Let's take a look at what practices you can implement whether you're a pet specialty retailer or a pet product manufacturer.
Source Responsible Pet Products
Your displays are looking a little thin and you're ready to bring in some new products to change things up a bit around the store. What does your research process look like as you look into new products to bring in?
Beyond examining the overall fit of a vendor's product, ask questions about their product and packaging manufacturing practices. Here are a few questions you can ask to get started:
- What does your production process look like for the product? The packaging?
- How do you ship the products? What do you do to minimize transportation costs?
- Is your product/packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable?
- Are your materials being sourced responsibly? Are they safe for the consumer?
Your goal here to understand the entire production process from start to finish - from materials sourced to end-of-life for the product and packaging. A responsible pet product manufacturer will be transparent about their production and happy to explain the entire process.
Use Energy-Saving Fixtures
Now that you have sustainable pet products in you store, let's take a look inside the shop itself. Incorporating energy-efficient methods in your store is not only great for the environment, but also shows your customers you care about the neighborhood you're based in.
Do you use special displays with extra lights, power, or cooling mechanisms? This usually applies to freezers for your raw pet food, but can also refer to the fancier in-store product displays.
If you're looking into adding a freezer to your pet shop, consider opting for one that's more energy efficient. Conversely, if you already have one, consider switching to one. It will be a higher cost up front, but will eventually pay itself off with decreased energy bills and increased brand loyalty with your consumers.
Do you know what kind of lightbulbs are lighting up your store? Are you and your employees being smart about turning on and off the lights as needed?
Incorporating LED light bulbs not only saves you money on your energy bill, but they also have a much longer lifespan. This means you won't have to replace them as often which saves you money and decreases the amount of waste going to the landfill. It's a win-win!
Heating & Cooling
Those who are located in extremely hot or extremely cold climates understand how much heating and cooling costs can easily add up. Not only does your energy bill sky-rocket, but so can the amount of pollution going into the air.
To make your heating and cooling systems more efficient, make sure you're changing the air filter regularly and tuning up your HVAC yearly. Additionally, if you don't already have one, install a programmable thermostat and control areas of your shop (i.e. the stock room) that aren't visited as often as the main part of the store.
Promote Reusable Bags and Digital Receipts
If you've been around anyone promoting a sustainable lifestyle, you know how much of a problem disposable plastic bags have become. Not only do they produce waste as they're being manufactured, but they also have an extremely short lifespan which turns them back into waste almost immediately after they've been used.
Digital receipts, too, are an unnecessary waste in today's digital age. They're potentially toxic and use up paper and ink for something which is usually thrown away after your customer makes their purchase.
To help with this, encourage the use of reusable bags by providing an incentive for using them. Some retailers opt to give a small discount ($0.15 or so), while others simply charge customers for using a disposable bag.
Additionally, offer an option for your customers to receive their receipt digitally via text or email to cut down on the number of receipts you print on a daily basis.
Design Packaging Responsibly
You spent months researching and creating the perfect pet product. It's got the perfect amount of bounce or just the right mix of ingredients. Now, it's time to come up with your packaging.
As you research sources for packaging, you're likely to come upon hundreds of options for disposable packaging. Some may work better than others, but what matters most to you is the balance of cost effectiveness, the look and feel, and the way it fits on a retail store's shelves.
What many manufacturers forget to consider is the impacts that unsustainable packaging can have on the planet we live on. In many cases, unsustainable product packaging isn't sourced responsibly, doesn't care for the waste produced, and doesn't consider the entire lifespan of the product - including after it's done doing its job.
If you want to position yourself as a responsible pet product manufacturer, the packaging process is one of the most important aspects of the product's sustainability. Working with a designer who specializes in sustainability will help ensure every aspect is considered throughout the process. This includes:
- The packaging materials
- The production process
- The efficiency and transportation costs
- The design of the packaging
- The end-of-life timeline
Cut Waste out of Production Process
As you're considering your packaging options, it's a good time to review your own production process and look for areas where you can improve.
As you review the process, keep an eye out for ways you can decrease the amount of waste produced and find ways to responsibly handle that waste. If you're working with a third party factory, ask them these questions to find out how they're minimizing their imprint on this planet.
Source Responsible Materials
Going back to the very beginning of the product lifecycle, let's take a look at how you're sourcing your materials.
If you're a pet food manufacturer, take a look at every company along your supply chain - from the farmers to the factories - and review their practices. Look out for those practicing non-polluting, cost-effective, and employee-friendly production practices.
Non-polluting and sustainable manufacturing not only causes less impact to our environment, but it also can reverse existing damage. However, it's our responsibility as pet product manufacturers to examine every portion of the supply chain and identify ways we can improve upon our sustainability practices.