This article was published in the January 2024 issue of Pet Food Processing. Read it and other articles from this issue in our January digital edition.  

Being a responsible corporate citizen is a common goal of organizations all over the globe. The reference to this responsibility is often highlighted in corporate mission statements, but the exact meaning of that responsibility varies from one corporate entity to the next. 

There is not one definition and not one mission when it comes to corporate responsibility, just a consensus that it’s a crucial part of doing business today.

“Everything we do comes back to our purpose and our work to enrich lives of our colleagues, the people in our supply chains, the communities in which we operate, and the countless consumers around the globe who depend on our products every day,” said Alison Taylor, chief sustainability officer at Chicago-based ADM.

Planet, people, communities — and in this industry, pets — are all part of corporate responsibility programs for today’s pet food industry stakeholders.


Protecting the planet

When it comes to corporate responsibility from an environmental standpoint, sustainability initiatives lead the way.   Corporations need to consider environmental impacts when it comes to the resources they use — such as energy, land and water usage — as well as how their products and services impact the planet. 

“Purina’s goal is to help create a healthier planet, so people and pets can enjoy everything it has to offer for many more years to come,” said Joe Toscano, vice president, trade and industry development at Nestlé Purina, St. Louis, Mo.

In 2022, more than 80% of electricity used at Purina factories came from renewable sources. The company is working toward a goal of using 100% renewable electricity across all manufacturing facilities by 2025.

Purina also has lofty goals when it comes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions — to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. 

“Through the initiatives in each step of our process — from ingredient sourcing to how our food is made and how our products are packaged — we are continuously working to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” Toscano explained.

Sustainability efforts for Mars Petcare, Franklin, Tenn., and its St. Charles, Mo.-based Royal Canin division include ingredient sourcing, responsible production practices and sustainable packaging goals. The company sustainably sources its Omega 3 EPA and DHA fatty acids from microalgae instead of from fish, and its production facilities send zero waste to landfills. The Royal Canin side of the business is on its way to being carbon neutral by the end of 2025.

On the packaging side, 100% of Mars Petcare’s canned and multipack materials are now recyclable. With the help of the Pet Sustainability Coalition, Bouder, Colo., the company is working toward making 100% of its packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable.

Purina is also trying to take a more sustainable approach when it comes to its packaging. Today, nearly 90% of the company’s plastic packages are designed for recycling. The company is also working to lessen its impact on the planet by encouraging its customers to recycle their pet food cans, like through its #PurinaRecyclingChallenge, which educated consumers on the benefits of recycling aluminum pet food cans.

“Recycling pet food cans is important because using recycled aluminum cans to make new aluminum cans uses 95% less energy than raw materials,” Toscano said. “Plus, the material from aluminum and steel cans can be reused over and over again when recycled.

“We want to walk the talk of sustainability and be a steward of our planet for generations of families and pets to come,” he added.

Processors aren’t the only pet food industry stakeholders working to make a positive impact on the planet through resource management and sustainable practices. Companies that support the industry as ingredient suppliers, equipment manufacturers, logistics managers, and even design and construction firms are all prioritizing the planet in their day-to-day practices as well as in their long-term goals.

“Kemin is focused on sustainably transforming the population by reducing our impact on climate, water, energy and waste while working to enhance nutrition and quality of life,” said Lauren Burt, head of worldwide communications for Des Moines, Iowa-based Kemin Industries. “Kemin’s vision — to sustainably transform the quality of life for more than 80% of the population — is rooted in the company’s complete dedication to social responsibility and sets the standard, guiding all employees in their work and innovation.”

As an agri-business company providing supply chain solutions for end-users and suppliers of grain, feed ingredients and food ingredients, including pet food, Omaha-Neb.-based Scoular is engaged in the business of buying, selling, storing, handling and processing grain and ingredients, as well as managing transportation and logistics worldwide. For the company, which employs more than 1,400 people, sustainability is more than an environmental commitment, it represents its corporate strategy across five pillars — carbon emissions, sourcing, community engagement, diversity and inclusion, and safety.

“Our sustainability commitments are the foundation for the work our employees are doing to create sustainable, customized solutions for our customers,” said Paul Mass, chief executive officer of Scoular, in the company’s 2023 Annual Sustainability Report.

Some of the environmental sustainability goals outlined in this year’s report include reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions; reducing the carbon footprint in the value chain; increasing renewable energy consumed; implementing a pilot program focused on reducing freshwater consumption; increasing the total volume of marine products sourced from sustainable processors or aquaculture sources; and developing producer programs that are carbon focused for climate smart agriculture.

“Scoular supplies a wide variety of food and feed ingredients, from flax to fishmeal to fiber. This provides us a unique opportunity to learn about sustainable sourcing across supply chains,” said Scoular Customer Sustainability Manager Beth Stebbins, in the 2023 Annual Sustainability Report. “Although our various product lines may seem very different at face value, exploring the myriad sourcing opportunities allows for cross-functional collaboration which helps us to advance our sustainability goals.”


Championing people

“We pursue corporate responsibility through the lenses of people, community and planet,” said Danielle David, chief people officer at Kansas City, Mo.-based CRB.

As a provider of sustainable engineering, architecture, construction and consulting solutions to the food and beverage industry, CRB weaves sustainability into its corporate operations, as well as into the design and construction plans it creates for its clients. The company prioritizes “putting the safety, health and mental wellbeing of our people first,” David said. 

Kemin’s Global Winner’s Circle members

Kemin’s Global Winner’s Circle members participate in an annual leadership training designed for the company’s up-and-coming future leaders.

Source: Kemin Industries
In addition, the company “provides our people with fulfilling opportunities for professional growth, community, friendship and fun; creates a diverse and inclusive workforce, where the sharing of ideas and oneself create a community of understanding, trust and respect; gains advantages at all levels of the organization through equitable hiring and promotion practices; and provides a foundation for security and wellbeing through fair compensation, comprehensive benefits, and employee resources.”

While employee programs have always been important to CRB, the COVID-19 pandemic created a unique need for more employee support in and out of the workplace.

“Our employees were dealing with the challenge of balancing the stressors of work and the demands at home with a turbulent macro environment,” David said.

As a result, the company implemented several programs focused on enhancing connections at work through employee-resource groups, providing access to additional resources through its Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and amplifying its overall focus on wellbeing.

Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace has become a corporate mission spreading across all industries including those representing pet food. The acknowledgement that an accepting work environment will lead to increased productivity, employment retention and job satisfaction has become more than a corporate responsibility; it’s become a necessity. 

“True innovation arises from having many different perspectives and backgrounds in all roles and at all levels of the organization,” said Jennifer Weber, ADM.

“True innovation arises from having many different perspectives and backgrounds in all roles and at all levels of the organization,” said Jennifer Weber, chief people and diversity officer at ADM.

ADM now has a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion council in each of its regions with leaders who manage four strategic pillars: leadership engagement, training and communication; recruiting; advancement and retention; and networks and sponsorship.

Scoular also has a corporate Diversity and Inclusion Council that sets the tone for the company’s D&I mission. 

“It’s a journey — there’s never an endpoint,” said Kate Pitschka, corporate sustainability manager for Scoular. “We are constantly evolving and trying to improve.”

Scoular now has four employee resource groups that provide programs, education and support to all employees. The company first started SWIC (Scoular Women Influencing Culture) to help female employees overcome some of the challenges of being in a male-dominated agriculture industry. SPAN (Scoular Proud Ally Network) and SEPOC (Scoular Ethnicities and People of Color) were formed to support the LGBTQIA+ and ethnic communities at the company. The most recent addition is SELO (Scoular Emerging Leaders Organization), a network designed to support young Scoular professionals.

“D&I is important to every corporation these days, but for some companies it’s a ‘check the box’ type of thing,” said Chad Kucks, vice president of sales, supply chain and R&D for Seward, Neb.-based Petsource, a Scoular subsidiary. “But at Scoular, we are highly engaged in it — it’s a daily part of everything we discuss and everything we do.”


Community outreach

To many companies, being a good corporate citizen goes beyond supporting the people employed by the company, it means supporting the communities in which the companies reside.

Kemin partners with Habitat for Humanity in the United States and globally. The company and its employees have volunteered on Habitat builds in various communities in the United States, Nepal and Brazil. 

The company also supports communities in its home state of Iowa by partnering with the governor’s STEM Advisory Council and sponsoring STEM Teacher Awards. The award honors one teacher from each of the six STEM regions in the state for their contribution and dedication to STEM education in Iowa. Each winner receives $1,500, as well as another $1,500 for their classroom.

“As a global company with customers in more than 120 countries and employees around the world, Kemin uses the philosophy of thinking globally and acting locally to support employees and communities they call home,” Burt said.

Community engagement is one of Scoular’s five sustainability pillars

Community engagement is one of Scoular’s five sustainability pillars. Here, Scoular employees help with a Habitat for Humanity project in Overland Park, Kan.

| Source: Scoular
The Scoular Foundation helps financially support a number of communities in which the company operates.

“People can see the value of having Scoular in their community beyond just the jobs the company provides,” Kucks said.

As one of the largest employers in Seward, Petsource is trying to have a positive effect on its community by helping finance the town’s new Seward Wellness Center, set to open in 2025.

“We are trying to contribute to the community beyond our business,” Kucks said. “It brings more meaning to the people that work here — it helps them be proud of where they work beyond just making pet food.”


Prioritizing pets

As members of the pet care industry, many companies take corporate responsibility a step further with their efforts to support pets through internal and external programs. These programs range from donating food to area shelters, as Mars Petcare has done alongside Greater Good Charities through its Extend a Paw program, to supporting the pets in the community, as KLN Family Brands, parent company of Tuffy’s Treat Company, did by building the NutriSource Dog Park in Delano, Minn.

Pet food processors share a common mission of producing foods to help keep furry family members healthy and happy for the duration of their lives. But many processors feel their commitment to pets should go beyond that.

Purina’s Purple Leash Project works to keep domestic violence survivors and their pets together. The program is supported by the company’s RedRover® fundraising campaign.

“Today, our goal is to help ensure at least 25% of US domestic violence shelters offer pet-friendly services by the end of 2025,” Toscano said. “We’ve already provided grants to 39 shelters across the country, and every state now has at least one pet-friendly shelter, but our long-term goal is to fundamentally change the landscape of domestic violence services for survivors with pets, so no survivor has to choose between their own safety and the safety of their pet.”

The company has also partnered with Urban Chestnut Brewing Company in the Raise a Pint for Pets program in its hometown of St. Louis. For every 16-oz can of Urban Underdog American Lager sold at participating food and beverage establishments, the company donated $1 to IMPETUS: A Coalition for Pet Progress.

“By buying beer, pet lovers can help shelter pets in need,” Toscano said. “Together, [since 2017] we’ve raised more than $225,000 for local animal shelters and helped countless pets find their forever homes.”

Purina has a number of other pet-centric programs, all with the goal of supporting pets beyond the bowl.

Royal Canin has partnered with Puppies For Parole as part of its CSR efforts

Royal Canin has partnered with Puppies For Parole since its inception in 2010. The program provides offenders with the opportunity to train rescue dogs to prepare them for adoption.

| Source: Puppies For Parole

Royal Canin has helped more than 7,000 dogs get adopted since 2010 through the Missouri Puppies for Parole program. The 10-week program, active in 16 Missouri prisons, allows offenders the opportunity to train rescue dogs in obedience and socialization skills to prepare them for adoption. Royal Canin also provides food for dogs in the program. 

“The Missouri Puppies for Parole program is a true testament of Mars Petcare’s purpose of making ‘a better world for pets,’” said Daryn Brown, president of Royal Canin North America. “It has been an honor to be a part of this program, and we owe a great deal of thanks to the Missouri offenders who have helped 7,000 dogs find their forever homes.”

The program has achieved adoption rates of more than 95%.

“We are grateful and proud of Royal Canin’s investment in Puppies for Parole since the program’s start,” said Jennifer Liebi, Puppies for Parole coordinator. “Their contributions allow us to set our dogs up for nutritional success and support the bonds that form between the dogs, their trainers and eventual adopted homes.”

Mars Petcare considers itself to be a purpose-driven company. Through this mission, the company strives to offer support and services to pet owners, and potential pet owners, beyond the food they sell. The PEDIGREE Foundation exists to help find as many homes as possible for pets in shelters. The Foundation helps fund shelters, cover adoption expenses for potential pet parents, and pair pets with potential homes.

A recent PEDIGREE program called Rescue Doodles utilized artificial intelligence (AI) to pair families with new four-legged family members. Children submitted doodles of their dream dog, and AI and the Adopt a Pet program helped pair the “doodle” with potential adoptable pets in the area. 

“We love the business performance of our brands, but performance without purpose is meaningless,” said Jean-Paul Jansen, chief marketing officer of Mars Pet Nutrition North America. 

Accepting responsibility for employees, communities, the planet, and even pets is the price of doing business for today’s corporate citizens — a corporate mission that is no longer negotiable for any company who wants to excel beyond the bottom line. 

Read more about corporate responsibility efforts across the industry.