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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, Nora Fierman, The Alliance Center Communications Intern

| Green Guilt | : (Noun) – Feeling like you should or could do more to help the environment.

Maybe you forgot to turn the lights off that one time you left the house all day. Maybe you drove to the store that’s just a few blocks down because you needed that one thing. Maybe you forgot your grocery bags or used plastic utensils and watched as the waste added up. Maybe you finally thought, I’m just one person, this is too much.

This is green guilt. The feeling of ‘I’m not doing enough’ or ‘I just did something wasteful for selfish reasons.’ As climate change takes position on the political stage, activism increases and we begin to see real affects, it’s easy to fall victim to this feeling. Green guilt is everywhere. I feel it when I buy something wrapped in plastic. When I have a to-go cup or containers, even if they are compostable. I feel it for other people – when I watch strangers waste food, fail to recycle or friends drive to work, though the distance is short.

The absolute worst of all, I feel it when I’m doing the things I love most – when I’m outside. As an avid backcountry skier and mountain biker, a climber and a backpacker, a self proclaimed outdoor enthusiast, I feel green guilt when I drive to trailheads. Maybe don’t drive as far to this new trail or this new objective, I tell myself. Maybe don’t go on that after work mountain bike ride. I know that these activities run in my blood and that I am the absolute happiest summiting a peak, skiing deep powder, beginning a descent on my bike and flowing through wildflowers. Warm coffee on a cold summer morning in the backcountry or hot dinner curled up in sleeping bags under the stars bring the biggest smiles to my face. How do I combat this green guilt? I know if I eliminate these activities, I wouldn’t be the person I am, I wouldn’t have the friends I have and I wouldn’t be as happy as I am.

How do I deal with this? I have adopted the concept of the ‘backyard expedition.’ It’s not a solution, but it allows me to continue pursuing my passions. I’ve realized I don’t have to drive across state boundaries to find new objectives and reach new heights – we have all that right here, in just a two-hour drive. This past winter I have made it a goal of mine to explore closer mountain ranges more intimately, and I’ve been successful! We are lucky that in Colorado, we have vast ranges right in our backyard, just waiting to be explored. Every time I head into the backcountry, I see a new peak beckoning. In just a short drive, I’m back exploring the next.

My green guilt still lingers, knowing I’m still causing waste for personal satisfaction. But then I remember – these activities make me the happiest, so I will do them as responsibly as possible. Maybe this is the category in which I have the biggest footprint, despite searching for ways to reduce it. I make extra effort elsewhere. I bike to work. I have grown increasingly aware of plastic at the grocery store and consciously reduce purchasing it. I bring my own bags, always. I’m a vegetarian. I cook at home, making many staples rather than buying more plastic-contained products, and I waste pretty close to no food weekly. But the green guilt whispers –  ‘is that enough?’ For now, yes. And I promise to continue my commitment to reducing my impact. After all, it’s my job at The Alliance Center to spread the word about sustainability and help our community join this movement.

That’s why this summer, The Alliance Center is dedicated to exploring this idea of ‘green guilt:’ what it is, why we feel it, and how it affects our community. Most importantly, we want to offer tips and advice as to how to overcome these feelings. The Alliance is a resource to our community. We work at the intersection of the environment, the economy and our community. Our building is full of resources to help our neighbors reduce impact, because we know small change leads to big change! Follow along and join this journey as we post challenges, resources and tons of tips and tricks, as well as events at The Alliance and around Denver! As always, let us know what you are up to with the hashtag #MyGreenGuilt. We love to hear from our community!

Written by: Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Senior Attorney, Public Lands, Center for Biological Diversity

My family is a busy, bustling and active bunch made up of two working parents, two very energetic and fun-loving kids, ages 10 and seven, and a sweet three-year-old chocolate lab named Violet. Our lives are pretty typical of most Denver metro-area families, running the kids around to activities and sports after school while maintaining meaningful careers in the field of environmental and energy law. There is never a dull moment and usually not much time to devote to reducing waste in our own home. We already own a highly energy efficient home with solar panels for heating and cooling. We drive only one car for our family of four, with my husband and I utilizing RTD public transportation to get to work. So, we already prioritize eco-friendly personal choices in our home and family. Our kids understand and value the part we all play in bettering life on this planet. It is one of our central core values as a family.

Since starting as senior public lands attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in 2016, a tenant of The Alliance Center, I began to educate myself about my family’s personal waste stream and how we can begin to minimize trash beyond just recycling at home. The Alliance Center has a hard to recycle station in the building with information on what items can and cannot be recycled and what is actually landfilled. I learned a great deal from this station and the informational emails that would go out to tenants at The Alliance Center on how to use the station. The Alliance Center also composts food waste.

Back in 2016, our family would generate about two bags of trash for the landfill every week, even while doing our best to maximize our municipal recycling. We committed to cutting that landfill waste in half by utilizing The Alliance Center’s hard to recycle station for items that couldn’t be recycled by our municipal recycling program. Then, in 2017 we signed up for Denver’s municipal composting program. By 2018, our family reduced our landfill trash to one full trash bag a month, beating our goal by 175 percent.  We realized that most of our municipal trash was comprised of food waste and non-recyclable plastic bags, bathroom and cleaner waste, and foil-lined bags/tubes, which The Alliance Center takes to recycle. I bring a small bag full of these items to the Alliance Center every week, and it has made a big difference in our total family’s waste stream. My kids and husband have learned which items go into which bin (or recycle bag for mom’s office). We introduced this commitment to reducing waste into the core of our daily family routine. It is not only good for the planet, but good for our own well-being. Self-care, care of others and planet-care go hand in hand. While our family might not be totally zero waste in the foreseeable future, we have made it a priority to be as low-waste as possible.  The Alliance Center has given us the opportunity to do just that.