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This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine. Click here to read the full feature. 

This interview is part of an ongoing series with ColoradoBiz Magazine to learn from Best for Colorado companies about the impact they have in our state.

ColoradoBiz: Can you define the specific programs, practices and priorities that fall within your organization’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach?

Andy Downs: We are a mission-driven company, and that mission is pet health, as well as nutrition and sustainability. We’re really focused on the health of companion animals, and we’re also focused on our social and environmental impact as a company. Transparency fits into both of those fields for us.

One of the biggest things we have done to really back up our CSR is our Vendor Code of Conduct. The Vendor Code of Conduct sets expectations that we have with our suppliers to make sure they are following the ethical business practices that we follow. In the code of conduct we’re also holding out our hand to say, we’re a partner in this and we want to be there to answer sustainability questions and support you. We’re on that path together with our sourcing and vendors.

CB: How did you establish the objectives behind sourcing more responsibly? How do you ensure suppliers comply?

AD: The way we look at it is sustainable sourcing is as healthy sourcing. The main screening process is our unacceptable ingredients list, which includes 40 things we found to be objectionable to the best life and health for your pets. So, if a person is using those in their manufacturing process, we don’t consider them to be a reliable vendor to work with.

Third-party certifications are also helpful for us to make informed decisions on our supply chain. We work with the Global Animal Partnership, we rely on MSC (Certified Sustainable Seafood) and we look for non-GMO certification. We also rely on our Vendor Code of Conduct to make sure they are aware of our expectations and know we’re in this together to find solutions.

It’s a lot of work upfront, but it definitely pays dividends down the road because it’s getting everything in line so that you can make sure that you have a well running supply chain.

CB: What is most rewarding/challenging about the corporate responsibility aspect of your organization’s work? What areas are you most concentrated on right now and why?

AD: Our biggest concentration right now is the employee engagement aspect. We have implemented a sustainability goal into every team member’s annual review. It’s been a big help for us because peoples’ wages are then tied into the sustainability of the company. Our bonus plan is based on each employee’s goals and one of their goals is based on sustainability. We’re growing pretty fast right now, and we want to have a person at each of those locations who is understanding of what the company’s sustainability mission is and who is actively working to implement that with their colleagues.

In the past, everyone was associated sustainability with environmental sustainability, but with the B Corp process it’s given us that great opportunity to say how we do sustainability. It is environmental sustainability absolutely, but it’s also community sustainability; how we operate in the communities where we work; how our company is governed with transparency of financials and ensuring we are legally mission-locked; and how it affects workers and their satisfaction with their job and diversity in our workplace. Once you really broaden it to those four categories and let the team know these are all part of our sustainability mission, a lot more people get on board.

CB: What is your proudest achievement?

AD: Our proudest achievement is our B Corp certification, which just happened in January. That was a company-wide push that took a lot of people’s effort to come to realization. It was a nice way for us to put the stamp on our sustainability efforts.

CB: What is an obstacle you’ve had to overcome and how did you do so?

AD: Culture can be a difficult thing to change sometimes. You can’t just say, we’re a mission-driven sustainability company and expect everybody to know what that means or how to help support that mission.

I would say the biggest help in overcoming that challenge was the company-wide buy in, specifically from Marty, our founder. He was really the one that said, ‘I think B certification is important for Only Natural Pet, and it’s something that I want us to pursue.’ With him buying in from day one, it helped everyone to understand the importance of it to the company and to find their role in the certification process.

CB: What do you recommend for companies who are looking to source goods from local/environmentally conscious suppliers but don’t know where to start?

AD: We talk about the Pet Sustainability Coalition and our history with them. I really try to express to other companies who are looking to source more sustainably to look for collaboration.

Try to find an industry group like that if it exists, and if it isn’t there, I would encourage anyone to open up and work collaboratively with anyone in their industry. If you are expecting yourself to go at it alone, it’s going to seem like a really big uphill process, but if you have friends to rely on or people to reach out to that will share that advice, it can really help out.

CB: Why did you join Best for Colorado? And what are you hoping to gain from the partnership?

AD: The thing that I’ve enjoyed most from Best for Colorado is the relationships and idea sharing. It really takes that nervousness away from seeing if you are interested in sustainability and how you go about some of the challenges that we all have. With Best for Colorado, I go to an event and I’m surrounded by people who are all willing to talk about sustainability, and it makes things a lot easier. It is a hub for sustainability-aware and sustainability-conscious Colorado businesses to get together and really rely on each other to make sure we are all working towards similar goals.

Written by Matthew Katz, The Alliance Center Programs Intern

The Alliance Center is pleased to partner with Girls Inc., an organization that explores and promotes the vitality of young women across the United States and Canada. Girls Inc. offers research-based programming, mentoring relationships and a pro-girl environment that allows participants to navigate gender, economic and social barriers.

The Alliance Center is lucky to welcome two dedicated high school students, Moudji and Shannon, to our team! Moudji, a sophomore from Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy, is an active member in performing arts and has a passion for creative dance. Moudji hopes to enhance her skills and knowledge in crime scene investigation sciences. Shannon, a sophomore from Lakewood High School, is a passionate piano player and singer. She hopes to turn this hobby into a full career in the music industry.

Both girls are conducting research for The Alliance Center’s exciting new project – our Climate+ Equity Toolkit. This toolkit is a top-down overview of the effects of climate change throughout Colorado at the county level. Moudji and Shannon are offering incredible assistance as they sort through data to evaluate how climate change will affect Colorado’s food and agricultural industries. Their goal is to map relationships between the effects of climate change against societal indicators and opportunities. The Alliance Center is extremely grateful to Moudji and Shannon and we can’t wait to share the final product with our community!

The Alliance Center is proud to partner with organizations like Re:Vision to create a better future for all. As we prepare to break ground on our own sustainable urban garden next month, we are thrilled to share Re:Vision’s story of the incredible, life-changing impact urban gardens can have on communities.

 

At Re:Vision we believe access to healthy food is a right, not a privilege. Whether through teaching families to grow their own food with our Re:Farm program, or beginning to plant the seeds of community-owned wealth at the Westwood Food Co-Op with Re:Own, our purpose is to create a thriving, resilient community. We achieve that using a three main strategies; we cultivate community food systems (Re:Farm), develop local leaders with our Promotoras (Re:Unite), and grow community wealth by creating a locally owned economy (Re:Own). We believe by providing residents with tools, training, and inspiration, the community will come together to solve some of their most pressing issues.

In 2009, Re:Vision started working in the Westwood neighborhood of southwest Denver. Westwood is bordered by Federal to the east, Sheridan to the west, Alameda to the north and Jewell to the south. You might know the area for its amazing taquerias and Vietnamese food. What you might not know, is Westwood faces significant health and economic disparities because of decades of underinvestment and inadequate resources; 37% childhood obesity rate (compared to the state average of 27%), and while Westwood has the most residents under the age of 18, it also has the fewest open spaces and parks in Denver. The average household income is less than half the Denver average, and less than 4% of the population has a college degree. There are no supermarkets, schools are overcrowded, and it is dangerous for youth to walk through the neighborhood. Yet, despite decades of neglect, Westwood is one of Denver’s most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, where 84% of residents are Latino, and approximately 60% of whom are first generation immigrants.

So, with all of these alarming statistics, why focus on food access and sustainability? Because that’s what the community wanted. When we spoke with residents, they mentioned a desire to be able to grow their own food as not only a means to save money on their grocery bills and improve access to and consumption of healthy foods, but also as a way to reconnect with the land. Many of our community members have agricultural backgrounds, and had to give those up in Denver’s more urban setting. They also gave up traditional ways of cooking because fresh produce, like chiles, and various herbs needed to cook certain dishes weren’t accessible, due to their price or actual availability. When budgets are limited, often times families are forced to make a choice between purchasing foods that will go a long way (think processed and shelf-stable foods) and produce. With the Re:Farm program, families don’t have to make that choice. Their gardens yield enough produce to feed the family and often times their neighbors as well. And if they have excess produce, they can take a variety of classes at our educational kitchen, La Cocina, to learn new culturally relevant farm-to-table recipes, or how to can and preserve so they can enjoy their produce year round. Families who participate in the Re:Farm program report continuing to eat more fruits and vegetables even in the off season.

What began with teaching seven families how to grow food in their own backyards, is now a thriving program changing food access in one community. To date, Re:Vision’s Re:Farm program has helped families throughout southwest Denver establish 1,765 annual gardens, collectively producing more than 500,000 pounds of fresh produce and saving those families over $1 million in grocery bills. In this current 2018 season, we have just over 260 families participating in the Re:Farm program.

 

Written by JoAnna Cintron, Re:Vision Director of Communications and Individual Giving