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How the Pet Industry Can Contribute to Sustainability (Caitlyn Dudas from the Pet Sustainability Coalition)
Episode 221st December 2022 • The Pet Industry Podcast • BSM Partners
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About the Episode:

While at SuperZoo, Dr. Megan Sprinkle and Steven Cauthren had the chance to interview Caitlyn Dudas.  Caitlyn is the co-founder and executive director of the Pet Sustainability Coalition. 

In this episode, they talk about:  What is the purpose of the Pet Sustainability Coalition; what are the opportunities for the pet industry to embrace sustainability; How the pet industry is benefiting from more female leadership. 

Links from this episode: 

Pet Sustainability Coalition:

Show Notes:

(4:18) How a chance meeting with Hunter Levins changed Caitlyn’s life

(4:49) Why consulting for businesses fits better with Caitlyn’s work

(5:22) How the Pet Sustainability Coalition was founded

(6:56) How consumers are impacting the Pet Industry

(8:11) Some unique sustainability challenges to the Pet Industry

(10:04) How big is the Pet Industry vertical?

(11:08) How a big market translates into big opportunity

(12:14) What is a big opportunity for the Pet Industry to focus on

(13:31) How the pet food space is changing

(14:41) How traceability and transparency are becoming mainstream

(15:52) Why transparency is important to the consumer

(16:27) How a lack of trust in corporate America drives corporate responsibility

(18:47) How to know if a company is really supporting sustainability efforts

(19:30) Why standardization of certifications is required

(20:01) Why the PSC created an accreditation program

(22:26) How sustainability can impact the bottom line for businesses

(23:58) Organic versus non-organic: which is more sustainable?

(24:43) What is regenerative farming?

(26:21) Why the recycling system is broken

(26:49) What is “circularity” and how it can help with recycling

(28:09) Why PSC focuses on helping businesses with sustainability

(30:47) What drives Caitlyn to continue her mission

(32:53) What Caitlyn sees is happening in the industry right now

(33:22) What is the financial impact to the industry within 5 years

(35:08) How women are impacting a male dominated industry

(36:46) How the industry is changing what is acceptable business behavior


Dr. Megan Sprinkle: While at Super Zoo we were fortunate to talk with Caitlyn Dudas, the co-founder and executive director of the Pet Sustainability Coalition. That is a mouthful. Uh, but Caitlyn is amazing. She had a very confident presence and she should, she has a background in corporate sustainability and nonprofit work.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: And she saw an opportunity to address environmental impact in the pet industry and build something bigger than just one individual. Caitlyn had several fan girls in the room with her beside myself, and one was Irene, one of our colleagues at bsm, who is also a sustainability enthusiast. So I was glad to have Irene there to ask some questions as well.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: But, uh, Steve, what was your favorite part of our conversation with Caitlyn?

Steve Cauthren: You know, Megan, I was thoroughly impressed with her answer to my question, which I thought was gonna be a stumper for her. I asked her about recycling and, you know, it's, it's actual benefits and its impacts. Uh, and she really, uh, she, she threw me.

Steve Cauthren: I, I was very impressed with the way she came back with that, but I really shouldn't have been surprised because, uh, she clearly knows what she's doing and what she's talking about.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: I absolutely agree, and that was a great question and I think a lot of people have questions around recycling. So I'm glad you asked about it. And Caitlyn really explains how important, uh, sustainability is and where it's important because it's not with the consumers, not the government. It's really the businesses that can make the biggest impact. And all of us are part of that.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: And even if the planet isn't your jam and your language is profit, doing the right thing, implementing sustainability correctly is profitable. And Caitlyn talks about that too.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: So I'm so excited to share this conversation with Caitlyn and here she is.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: thank you so much for being with us today. Like you said, you have a, a busy schedule and we're really honored to be able to talk to you a little bit today. And I also have Irene here today who is also a big sustainability enthusiast.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Um, so you were actually just saying, A, a story about working with some projects that the Pet Sustainability Coalition had. So just so you can introduce yourself to Caitlyn as well a little bit, do you mind sharing the, the, uh, little challenge that you became a part of and.

Irene: Sure. So I participated in the PET sustainability coalition's, 10,000 actions. And I was one of the, the first people to do, to complete three actions once the thing started.

Irene: And so I was one of the group that, that received a very adorable t-shirt. But it was also exciting to, to learn all the different things that that can be done to improve your sustainability as an individual and as a company. So I thought it was just a brilliant endeavor by the PSC group.

Caitlyn Dudas: Yeah. That's one of the, um, first times we've had an earth Day rally and an opportunity to just bring individuals together to take these small steps because change can feel so big and so hard.

Caitlyn Dudas: One of our goals as an organization is how do we make that digestible?

Caitlyn Dudas: Um, and so we ended up reaching over 12,000 actions through that 30 day campaign, Um, but it sounds like you were right out of the gate. Um, some nice work.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: yes. So we were also really interested to hear more about your personal story, getting into the, the pet space, because you come from having a master's at Harvard with sustainability focus.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: So why, why pet?

Caitlyn Dudas: I live in Boulder, Colorado. And in Boulder, the natural food space is enormous, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: So we've seen a ton of growth from a lot of startup companies. From Justin's peanut butter to the Natural Pet Food Expo, uh, is led out of Boulder as well in California. And so Boulder is this innovative startup space in the natural food sector.

Caitlyn Dudas: Alongside that came several companies that started working in the pet food industry. And honestly, I was working with an organization at the time that provided nonprofit consulting business services for companies that are looking to adopt sustainability practices.

Caitlyn Dudas: And the first client I worked with, so that organization is led by Hunter Levins, who's this kind of world renowned leader in the sustainability space. I had studied her extensively, read a lot of her work, and then ended up living about 15 miles from where their headquarters was.

Caitlyn Dudas: I, uh, found an event that she was speaking at and went down and introduced myself and said, here's my background. I'd love to work on what you're working on. And I had a master's degree and she said, how about an unpaid internship?

Caitlyn Dudas: And I said, sign me up.

Caitlyn Dudas: So that was really my first experience in the sustainable business consulting.

Caitlyn Dudas: So I had originally intended to be in the land management space. But in my master's degree really understanding the leverage that businesses have to drive impact. And how as individuals, we can all do our part, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: We can recycle we can make individual choices, but that businesses have this opportunity for impact that's scalable in a new way. And so I became very inspired around the sustainable business movement, how I could work with businesses to turn sustainability into a language that they could speak, right? That there was ROI that I could show them. Sustainability isn't always more expensive, especially depending on what you focus on first.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so in the pet space specifically, my first client was Ian Loveaneau and I was really working on a project with them and helping them put in place some tools inside of their business. And I met one of their co-founders, which was Chris Bentley, and realized really early on that he had this vision around how to really shift the entire industry.

Caitlyn Dudas: So yes, he decided I should leave with my company, right? If I'm gonna show the industry that this is possible, then let's start with me, right? With Ian Loveaneau.

Caitlyn Dudas: But I recognized that he had this much wider vision and he had been in the pet industry for 25 years. And so he came and we, had a couple of lunch meetings and he said, I just met you and I had just started at this organization a long term event, someone left on paternity leave.

Caitlyn Dudas: I ended up managing the project. And then he and I just really connected around this vision for leveraging his network and his experience and his passion around environmental. He had talked with CEOs for, 20 years. What are you doing, what are you doing? You know, talking to Kong, oh, we put solar here. Talking to all these Companies and there were all these piecemeal projects happening.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so he felt this growing demand for sustainability and I came along with the experience, the education, and the ability to take that vision and really run with it.

Caitlyn Dudas: How did we, you know, we launched with a suite of tools. We didn't just say, hey, we have this idea and we think we, can, it can work. We went to the apparel sector and we said, hey, come to Global pet. Come show us what your Industry has done. We went to the natural food sector and said, how are you doing this?

Caitlyn Dudas: We didn't really just say, let's reinvent the wheel.

Caitlyn Dudas: We said, what's been successful? They've been doing it for 20 years.

Caitlyn Dudas: Can we do it in three? Can we catch up with all of these other industries that have been addressing this need?

Caitlyn Dudas: We know what you put in and on your body is where you start thinking about sustainability first, cuz there are health implications.

Caitlyn Dudas: We knew that there were shifts, um, in the pet industry happening where pets were becoming family members.

Caitlyn Dudas: As we started seeing these consumer trends, you know, when we first got here, we were slightly early to market. There were not conversations happening around what sustainable business is. So it meant defining that first, and just talking about, what is the potential of sustainable business? What is it and how can it be good for me?

Caitlyn Dudas: I mean, I was walking into booths with slide decks, talking about the business case. The business case, the business case. And that conversation has so shifted in just the last six to eight years as consumers have really started demanding more sustainability in their products.

do it. So he and I started in:

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: That's fantastic.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: And so have you noticed anything that's really unique and special about the pet industry compared to some of the other industries when it comes to the topic of sustainability?

Caitlyn Dudas: So unique pieces around the pet industry? Well, there are a lot of unique challenges that make sustainability a little bit difficult.

Caitlyn Dudas: One of them, being just all of the kind of middle players in the supply chain. So what it takes to bring a product forward. There's a lot, especially in food specifically. There might be a, a producer and a pre-processor and a secondary processor, and anyways. there are so many different players in the industry that creating systemic change in these big issues is complicated and takes a long time.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so there are more challenges I think, generally in this in industry that I've seen in other spaces. I think on the packaging side, there are also challenges. There's not a unified system of how we create packaging. So there are thousands of different formulations. There are different closures and zippers and pouches and metalize layers and, there's so many different things that it's the, unifying all of these different aspects is a little bit more challenging.

Caitlyn Dudas: I think on the plus side, certainly the pets as family actually assists in people's ability to say, Hey, if I care what I put in my body or on my body, then I also care what I put in and on my pet's body. Um, and so it's a little bit more of a direct correlation because the pet is so close to the family. And there's also this deep sense of caring in this industry, right? Like ultimately we're caring about pets, right? Pets who don't have a voice, pets who we steward and care for. And I think caring about the planet is really an extension of that depth of care.

Caitlyn Dudas: So it's not that many ripples out to think, Hey, if I care about me and my family, like I care about my community. And if I care about my community, then I care about where we live. And if I care about my park and where I live and where I. play, then maybe I care about where other people live and play. And so really that care can extend and ripple beyond just based on those core values of this industry.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Yeah. And when it comes to the pet industry, how, what is the impact of the pet industry upon environmental issues?

Caitlyn Dudas: Yeah. I was reading some incredible information this morning.

Caitlyn Dudas: So it's a hundred some billion dollar industry, right? Which makes it almost double the size of the baby industry, right? So huge impact If you think about, oh, that pet, so many people think, right? Pet industry is small, That's just a little thing. This is an enormous industry.

Caitlyn Dudas: So it's big, therefore it has big impact. It's global, right? So many of our products are made overseas. And they're made in places where our environment and our habitat is, we don't have that much left of it.

Caitlyn Dudas: So really thinking critically about those resources and where we're pulling resources from. If you. look at proteins, right? If you think, okay, 50% of just the United States is agricultural land. 80% is used on meat, and of that 25% comes to this industry. We have an enormous opportunity to play a role in this agricultural transformation that's happening across food security and food stability around the world, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: And so to me, it's not a niche industry, right? Like when I talk. To my friends, like pet industry that's so random. And I'm like, you have no idea how big this industry is and how much opportunity.

Caitlyn Dudas: So when I see the impact that we have, it's big. But to me, that actually translate to big, translates to big opportunity and it's really exciting, right? Cause it means that the work that I do, even if today's state, you could look at it and say, wow, So much degradation is happening, You can get really dark about it. To me that's just like, look at this amazing opportunity we have to make transformation.

Caitlyn Dudas: The Pet industry is so welcoming to us. After being here for 10 years is people are excited to talk to us about what innovations are happening on the forefront. we see quantifiable change that really fuels us. There's a lot of dark things. that happen on an annual basis, you know, when you look at what's happening in the world.

Caitlyn Dudas: But we're really able to actually put numbers around the changes.

Caitlyn Dudas: Like half of our members have some type of certified ingredient in their product at this point, sustainably certified ingredient in their product. So we're able to you know, kind of see these trends and changes that really help to kind of motivate us beyond some of the darkness that's happening in the world.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Yeah, there's hope, right?

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: There is hope.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Well, so you mentioned about innovation and things that are happening. So what are some of these innovations that people are doing to help with the sustainability?

Caitlyn Dudas: Yeah, so the pet industry focuses a lot on packaging.

Caitlyn Dudas: Um, and it really, I would say in the last five years, sustainable packaging has become the leading environmental issue by far.

Caitlyn Dudas: Sometimes it pains me because the truth is is that if you look at a bag of food, 20% of its impact is. the bag, and 80% of its impact is what's in the bag. And so sometimes I think we tend to focus on things that aren't materially where the biggest opportunities are to really have impact.

Caitlyn Dudas: However, at the end of the day, your consumer has your package with your brand on it and they don't know what to do with it. Right?

Caitlyn Dudas: And so our individual experience of sustainability is so formed by the recycling system of like, if you recycle, you're there for a part of a sustainable lifestyle, which is not enough.

Caitlyn Dudas: Clearly, we're not gonna recycle our way out of climate change. That's just not a scalable solution. But certainly I would say, there has been so much improvement in the packaging space.

Caitlyn Dudas: So we see a lot of demand on, how do we move to more sustainable formats?

Caitlyn Dudas: What are the clear solutions around this?

refillable, or compostable by:

Caitlyn Dudas: So that's a really exciting space where we're seeing demand with solutions at the same time and just rapid acceleration.

Caitlyn Dudas: I think on the protein side, there's, I identified about four years ago that animal welfare was gonna be one of the largest issues to come into the pet food sector.

Caitlyn Dudas: And when this industry talks about animal welfare, they think about like, how are we treating pets in shelters?

Caitlyn Dudas: And that's not what I mean when I talk about animal welfare. I talk about what is the care that we are providing for the animals that are raised to be ingredients in our pet food.

Caitlyn Dudas: And if We are selling to a consumer who cares so deeply about animals and its pet, it also cares how we're treating the proteins that are being raised for this food. And so we have absolutely seen in the last several years at a very strong increase in awareness and interest in looking at ethically sourced proteins. So seeing a lot of interest in that space.

Caitlyn Dudas: And then just general like traceability and transparency questions. Brands wanna be able to ask. where is This coming from? And where was it raised you know, where was it manufactured? but also where does it actually come from? Right? Where are the origins of these ingredients? And I think that transition of just increased knowledge around what are we creating and where is it coming from, and therefore where are opportunities to make changes, is, you know, quickly advancing across the industry.

Caitlyn Dudas: So, let's see. We talked about packaging, we talked about proteins.

Caitlyn Dudas: I think those are the two biggest areas that We see innovation coming from. You know, looking at materials. In the plastic space there's a lot of looking at kind of climate injustice and where is pollution landing in our planet and what do we do about that? There are like three primary places in India where most of our packaging is sent to and the pollution problems that exist from us pushing our problems to other places. And so we've seen a lot of of interest in kind of investing In solutions that may not happen here in the United States as well.

Caitlyn Dudas: As well as supply chain crashing, right? So you're seeing a lot of companies bringing their supply closer to home. And a part of that is sustainability. But a part of that is just having some more transparency and control over, supply and what it takes to bring a product to market and trying to address this realization of supply chain failure over the last couple of years So,

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Speaking of transparency, that seems to be a word that comes up quite a bit in the pet industry. Are there other ways, like our pet owners, are you seeing them having more demand for this transparency?

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Where else are you starting to see that need when it comes around this topic?

Caitlyn Dudas: I really think this has been an evolution in a consumer mind for a long time.

Caitlyn Dudas: So I think some things have happened, like access to data generally, right? So where do we go to get information. We wanna be able to research the answer to any question that we possibly have in our brain, right? Like that is just an expectation is if I have a question, I should be able to find the answer to that.

Caitlyn Dudas: Yes. Yes, exactly. So I think this kind of hunger for knowledge and control over our choices, right? So we wanna think, Hey, I can understand any issue actually, and then I can make choices that are good for me and my family, which includes, my pets, right? So there's those two things happening.

Caitlyn Dudas: At the same time, I think there's a real lack of trust in corporate America, right? Like, I think there has been a lot of tragedy that has happened at the hand of corporations. You know, you see things like, nike soccer balls, right? And realizing that those are made by children. And, there are families that are dying and slave labor.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so there's been, with waves of activism a realization by the average person that, there are things that can't be trusted, right? And so I think a lack of trust in corporate america. Along with a desire for traceability and transparency and a desire to just like control the purchasing decisions that we make.

Caitlyn Dudas: Like every time we purchase a product, somehow we see it as a reflection of ourselves, right? Like, I chose this, here's how it aligns with my values. and I feel really great about it. And so I think all of those things happening at the same time have created this high demand for companies to take responsibility for impacts of their production process, right? that we're not willing to say, Hey, you can emit pollution into the air. and then We're gonna pay higher bills when we go to the doctor because we're sick, but who's actually causing that pollution?

Caitlyn Dudas: And so I think there's just this new wave of kind of corporate responsibility that's an expectation, particularly here in America. We don't see that as much when we have, about 25% of our members are in Europe where government is really stepping up and setting a much higher bar as minimum expectation. And there really Isn't the same expectation on corporations to be innovative to be problem solvers and to be stating, what their performance is.

Caitlyn Dudas: Here in the US, if you don't say what you're doing, people assume you're doing bad things, right? In the EU, they just assume, well, you're following all the regulations, right? So that's good enough.

Caitlyn Dudas: Those are very different kind of mindsets of you know, the average consumer.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: So I think a lot of people can help in, in this area, whether it's pet owners who want to demand more sustainability efforts, also retailer stores. I know that there are a lot of stores that will selectively pick companies and products that they feel are following these sustainable, um, efforts. But I also see that sustainability is, can be used almost like a buzzword.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: But We don't always know what that means.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: So how can we, as consumers or retailers, how do we know if if a company really is sustainable?

Caitlyn Dudas: I think in:

Caitlyn Dudas: They're willing to pay more for it. So therefore, let's start talking about this.

Caitlyn Dudas: So we big brand dollars and promotions and ad dollars going towards sustainability campaigns.

Caitlyn Dudas: At the same time, not really understanding what metrics those things are correlated with or you know, like the proof in the pudding. right.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so I think greenwashing is an enormous problem in this industry. I think it's a natural part of progression for most industries as they start talking about it cuz it's super exciting. And then realizing, oh, this is actually hard work. Right? And how do we have the infrastructure of a program in order to be making these claims.

Caitlyn Dudas: I think there's a lot of certifications, particularly in the ingredients side, whether you're sourcing fish or you're sourcing chicken, or beef there's a lot of environmental certifications that can help with that process. That's also true on the packaging side and unified labeling programs that help to tell that story. And a whole lot of companies will just make up a label, right? And they'll be like, this looks really great. Let's put a leaf on it. And we'll say we're sustainable. And that's just not acceptable, right? And, but this is really a new issue for this industry, like in the last five years.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so I do think there's a need for more standardization.

Caitlyn Dudas: So we've created an accreditation program that's a third party verified process to help companies measure where they are today to choose an environmental impact area of significance to their business and a social impact area of significance.

Caitlyn Dudas: And then really, we use a third party auditor to go Through this process to, you know, to verify all of the answers that they're giving to request documentation and to, set a new standard for this industry. Because we really recognize that for a retailer, there are a million questions that you might have for a company, and it's almost impossible to be able to be a specialist in all of them.

Caitlyn Dudas: Right? Like poop bags are a great example. You go to a company and they say, these are compostable. And you think, wow, that's great. I'm gonna buy compostable bags. That is such a complicated issue. I won't even get into all Of the ways that the poop bag issue is hard to solve.

Caitlyn Dudas: It's like we can't even decide paper or plastic. Same thing happens right in, in the poop bag space in my opinion.

Caitlyn Dudas: Sustainability isn't always intuitive either, right. So we expect we could just ask some hard questions of a brand and they're gonna, be able to answer it and then we'll move on.

Caitlyn Dudas: But I do think more standardization is required. And documentation of, okay, if you're. saying these things, Like, what does sustainability mean to you?

Caitlyn Dudas: And if someone tells you, well, I use. 20% recycled content in my bags. Like, to me, that's not enough. But a whole lot of people don't understand what is enough, right? Like where do we set that line?

Caitlyn Dudas: And so I think it's a missing component in the industry. But I also think it's the absolute natural progression of how you see change in sustainability. affect many industries, right? So you get this high green washing curve, which is then going to start be standardized. If you look at many of the climate talks that happened internationally, they're calling for standards too, right? They're developing standards committees. okay, we need a global reporting system, by which we can talk apples to apples here because it is an impossible marketplace to be able to decipher between all of these different solutions and marketing programs that companies have.

Caitlyn Dudas: So it's definitely a missing piece, something that's needed. So A couple of years ago, we launched our our accreditation program, which is part of that, it's a retailer facing accreditation program. It has a ton of room to grow.

Caitlyn Dudas: If you look at standards that have helped consumers decipher these things, right, like the organic certification is the number one thing that consumers recognize, but 1% of all the land in the United States is organic certified, right? Is that enough? I don't think that's enough.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so it's a, consumer education is needed. But I think there's So much opportunity right here in the B2B space. And also I have to say that I don't always believe that we have to empower buyers to make these choices.

Caitlyn Dudas: Like sometimes I believe there are opportunities to work with great businesses to say this doesn't have to be a cost add, right? So how do we make choices as businesses because this is the ethical thing to do and it actually delivers ROI, right? If A company is looking at retrofitting for energy efficiency. There's gonna be enormous financial savings in that. Often what happens is there's not great accounting.

Caitlyn Dudas: So like you do those early projects, you save some money and then the other projects down the road are a little more expensive, and suddenly you're like, oh, now this costs money. Instead of really accounting for all of the savings that you've had or all the growth you had the sales side of like, Hey, we developed this new product and it has these sustainability implications and let's take the gross or the net profit that we think is because of the cause marketing or the sustainability marketing that we did. and let's account for that when we're thinking about what's the return on sustainability.

Caitlyn Dudas: So I think if you're actually accounting for sustainability the right way, it actually isn't uh, a cost center. Or if it is, it's because you're looking at it short term, right? So you're not thinking about what is the long term profitability of my business.

Caitlyn Dudas: And this industry is hard to do that, right? There's a lot of companies you know, the selling and the buying rate in this industry is huge. So sometimes it's hard to have a beyond five years outlook. But that, sustainable business practices, I truly believe are more profitable for a company in the long run. As long as you're willing to say, I don't need to see this in You know, I return on this in 18 months, but I'm willing to look at three to five. years.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: I don't know which one. The paper, the plastic. I, I've heard both sides go back and forth on that, so I, I do understand that one. Irene, did you have question?

Irene: It's probably a controversial question for you, but as you mentioned, organics and, and comparing organics to sustainability. So my question is, are organics always the most sustainable way to go or are there some farming practices that may be more sustainable when they're not organic?

Caitlyn Dudas: The thing about certifications, they're financially viable for large production, generally speaking, right? So there's two to three years that it takes to actually transition a crop from non-organic to organic. And sometimes that eliminates the opportunity for small regional suppliers to play a role in that organic system. So I do believe that there are opportunities outside of a certification for agricultural producers to be doing amazing work that can be equal or better than organic.

Caitlyn Dudas: There is also a new wave it's actually the organic regenerative standard, which is the next version of the organic standard, which is beyond, like sustainable. It's actually into how do we regenerate our planet through farming practices. And so there's been a lot of movement in that space in the last five years. You could, you know, Patagonia for example, has made a commitment to regenerative certification, or sorry, regenerative supply. actually. I think There's some pet companies that are working on that as well.

Caitlyn Dudas: The other piece around organic is that it's really focused synthetic fertilizers and pesticide use. When I define sustainability, it's not just about the planet, right? It's also about the humans that live here and the animals that live here as well.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so my view of sustainability is beyond just an environmental indicator. Certainly, the organic standard has been a foundational component of this movement. And I think it's a great, it's a great standard and it's evolving because we recognized there's actually more to this and, regeneration and regenerative practices are kind of that next wave.

Steve Cauthren: I, so I've got like a, a twofold for you. Um, and it might be slightly controversial as well. So number one, I hear, I've heard people talking about recycling being more of a, um, well, like you said, buzzword earlier, Megan. Just something that people say and like, is it really a thing? Is it really helping us Because the recycling process, Is really so drawn out difficult and you know, I try to recycle this water bottle, I have to take the lid off, I have to take the wrapper off, all those things.

Steve Cauthren: So a lot of people don't take those steps. So what are your thoughts on that? And then secondly, how do we motivate people to then kind of jump in there because it's like chicken and egg. Where does it start with the companies being sustainable or the consumer being recyclable? . So,

Caitlyn Dudas: Yes. that's a hard question. So I agree that the recycling system is broken. And I think a lot of that is actually because companies that are responsible for making plastics aren't also responsible for recovering plastics, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: And so we have actually pushed this problem from the producer's responsibility to the consumer's responsibility. And in my opinion, consumers getting them to do anything is an uphill battle, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: So I don't like to lead much to the consumer of like, oh, they're really gonna make this happen.

Caitlyn Dudas: I think businesses are in a much better position to build and design differently for what's called circularity, right? So like, if you're producing something, you're not just producing it. for your user, and then it goes to the landfill.

Caitlyn Dudas: How are we producing in a circular mindset of, not pulling materials, but really creating a full use cycle that it can be regenerated and reused again and again and again. And so it kind of answers both of the, a little bit of both of those questions. But, on the chicken or the egg, I really, I really believe the producers. of waste Are responsible for that waste.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so i, I do think we are fortunate that our, that consumers care and they have created this poll of, companies being willing to come into a room and talk about sustainability, as one of the lead drivers for their consumer set. and Therefore, they're gonna get in line. But I think the next evolution of this is really looking at, there's the potential that our planet cannot sustain life, right. And what are we gonna do about that?

Caitlyn Dudas: Cuz there's no business case in using all of our resources.

Caitlyn Dudas: Like what, what are you gonna create next? Right? We have nothing left. And so I think it takes government, but I think government slow to act. The innovation that's required to really address a lot of the problems that we're seeing requires rapid action and I think businesses are in the best position to take that action. So I put most of the responsibility on on businesses personally,

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Is that why you are trying to focus so much with the Pet Sustainability Coalition on the businesses because they are gonna be the ones that are gonna have the biggest impact?

Caitlyn Dudas: If you look at, let's take, you know, one of the big five, let's, you've got this enormous pet company, right? They make a change on 1% of their product.

Caitlyn Dudas: And if you actually measured, let's say the impact of climate change, the carbon impact of that, it is an enormous Shift in the way that we impact the global environment. And so I think that because businesses are the most ideal, fastest innovative, and they can reap the rewards of a place for change to happen, that's why I've invested much of my career in working with businesses in a way that they enjoy, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: Like if you look at our retention rate and our membership, it's above 80%, right? Companies come to us it might seem like a Huge job at first, but when you have partnership and you have the tools that you need, and it doesn't feel like this big, enormous monster that you have no idea where to get started on, it actually becomes like a joyful part of their business.

Caitlyn Dudas: There are people out there who are just profit monsters, right? I don't work with many of them, but most people have their eyes open too, right? We all live in this world. We're not just business owners, we're also consumers. We also many of us have children. Many of us care about what the planet is going to look and what

Caitlyn Dudas: was our business and our life contribution to that.

Caitlyn Dudas: You know, I think especially in the last two years is everyone's doing this like massive, shift and like what is the point of life and what am I doing here, right? I think this is only going to continue to be additional opportunity for people to be in the business space and to do well for themselves and to do well for their business and to create incredible jobs for lots of people and to do that in a way that is responsible for our planet. And at the end of the day, they're even, they more profitable with their business because they drove prosperity. Right. They were a part of, of something good.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: I was reading an article I've already forgotten what, what was the name of the magazine where you they were doing the Women in, in the Industry article.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Yes. the article and Pet Food Processing where they were focused on women in the industry. And one of the statements that really stood out to me that you said was they asked you what was one of your most proudest moments or about your career, and you said that you feel like you are um, doing something part of a bigger good.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: So is, is that still true? And, and how do you feel like you're continuing that, that feeling of doing, uh, something for the, the better. Good.

Caitlyn Dudas: Impact has been a key part of my career. kind of forever I was raised in the country. I've always had strong environmental values. Both of my parents care deeply about both the people we share the world with in our communities and the environment.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so I knew that I was going to be a part of the environmental movement in some, way.

Caitlyn Dudas: You know, I did my undergraduate in environmental studies. I did my master's in sustainable business. And so I knew this was the direction that I wanted to go. And I think one of the pieces that so early on in co-founding this organization, it was an uphill battle, right, of pushing this rock. It's just like, oh, it's gotta go up this hill. And I think, we're turning 10 next year and really looking at how, how much steam and how. much momentum has been built, you know, like we provide the drumbeat, but everyone is like in right? it's, it's just not the uphill battle that it was before.

Caitlyn Dudas: So I just took a 12 week professional sabbatical for myself. I've been back for two weeks. And really having this opportunity to stand back and see how much the organization has grown. We have a full staff. We're growing all the time. 15 new members came in while I was gone for 12 weeks. And, things like that happen and you realize that even. even when you step away as an individual, we have created a movement that is unstoppable.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so that feels like success regardless of, what our sales look like for the year or I still love looking at the metrics every year of because every individual took action here's our aggregate action as an organization. Like those are really powerful numbers. But ultimately I have helped to inspire this community of companies that won't. ever do business the same way and can't ever think I'll, like sustainability has become a part of their mindset. And that shift, I think is what is really where I was coming from with those comments around having created this amazing movement.

Steve Cauthren: What is your prognosis for sustainability?

Steve Cauthren: How long do you think it's gonna, how long do you think it'll take for it to really take effect, like a real, Substantial effect that we can feel and see. Uh, and how long do you think that this will last? Do you feel like this will trend out or people will really latch onto this and own it?

Caitlyn Dudas: I don't think it is going anywhere.

Caitlyn Dudas: One of the most remarkable things that we've seen really just in the last 12 months is an increase in by at least 10% within our membership an increase in sustainability director roles, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: So that means this isn't someone's side project that they're doing at top of their job. This is someone's full-time job where they have KPIs and metrics that they have to report against.

Caitlyn Dudas: I think that shift is going to be monumental in the breadth and the depth at which companies approach sustainability moving forward.

ompanies today who are making:

Caitlyn Dudas: That amount of growth is insane for any industry, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: But I think the bigger we get the bigger the light becomes on our heads of, Hey, what are you guys doing in this space?

Caitlyn Dudas: Right? And there are tons of activist activists in this space people attacking different companies for animal treatment or animal cages or, there's a. lot of activism happening that I think this industry is going to start attracting more and more of. And I think that pushes companies to take more action. as well.

Caitlyn Dudas: I don't wish that upon this industry in any way. I hope to be. a part Of the process to equip them before those things happen. So that they're so far above standard that, that's not even a blip, um, on their radar.

Caitlyn Dudas: But I think those things are going to increase as this industry, continues to get bigger.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Well, Caitlyn, you are obviously very passionate about this and you are, you're making a huge impact in the industry and in the world, and, but something we have noticed is that this can be a very male dominated industry as well.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Hence probably the article about women in the industry.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: If we have to highlight women, how are, how do you feel about that in women in the industry and how has that also impacted how you are building the pet sustainability coalition?

Caitlyn Dudas: Yeah, so there's a couple of components of that

Caitlyn Dudas: First of all, being taken as a credible leader in the industry, first of all, I was in my twenties, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: So I was young and I was a woman. Right? So two things that are a little bit outside The norm in this industry for sure.

Caitlyn Dudas: So I was super grateful to have an older, successful man as my co-founder because it opened a lot of doors that I think would've been harder to open at that time. So I feel like the partnership of those two things really helped give me a, a step up into that.

Caitlyn Dudas: I think another piece is that i, I didn't focus a ton of time on The companies who weren't in the conversation for the right reasons that, weren't already thinking about sustainability within their business.

Caitlyn Dudas: So when you first launch something, right, you get those early adopters that already get it. And early adopters on sustainability are also tend to be generally kind of woke people, right? So they're thinking about things like gender equality and diversity, equity, and inclusion as well. And so I feel so fortunate that many of our founding companies and founding board members you know, we're progressive people, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: This is a progressive movement, progressive in all sorts of ways. So I feel like I dodged some of those kind of initial things that would've been setbacks for a whole lot of people.

Caitlyn Dudas: I think the other thing that we have really found in hiring is that in the nonprofit space, and this is a service based organization, right? We provide service sustainability itself is kind of a service, right? It's impact driven that we have a very strongly dominated female team.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so we've actually had to work to achieve gender diversity in the way that most companies don't, which is how do we attract men to our organization? And how do we achieve gender equality that way?

Caitlyn Dudas: So we've actually had some different challenges on that front. So 80% of my team are women. I have successfully hired two men in the last year, which is great.

Caitlyn Dudas: but you know, I feel like with the me too movement that happened a couple of years ago. and the shift in what acceptable business behavior is and the acknowledgement of what the experience of being a woman in this country is like has really started to put people on their toes. And realize that A: most of our consumers in this industry are women, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: They're the people who are out buying the product. We need to elevate women into management roles and senior executive roles. And the companies who do that outperform by far, right?

Caitlyn Dudas: And so the data also helps to usher in kind of more gender equality. And I think Also this industry is gonna age out, right? If you look at the average age of most of the business owners in this industry, that's gonna shift a lot in The next 10 years. Unless people wanna, be working when they're 90 or 80, you know, seems unlikely.

Caitlyn Dudas: And so I think there's a natural progression that's going to take place, in, in, over the next decade around that. as well.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: All Right.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Well, I have one more question for. It's very Big serious question.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Do you have any pets?

Caitlyn Dudas: I do. I have an English pointer named Gus, who is now 11 years old.

Caitlyn Dudas: I can't believe it. He's finally showing his age, um, but that's it.

Caitlyn Dudas: Right now we have, we're one dog family.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Nice. Me too. Actually, I have an only child, dog.

Dr. Megan Sprinkle: Well thank you.

Steve Cauthren: Appreciate your time. All right. Thank you.




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