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Sustainability and what it means for your pet business with Jo Baker

by | July 14, 2021

Would you love to know more about how to have an eco friendly, sustainable pet brand?

Do you want to carry on doing what you love and ensure you’re caring for the environment at the same time?

It can be really overwhelming considering not just your business but the planet too, there are so many things we feel like we should be doing but it’s knowing where to start.

For Plastic Free July I’m speaking to Jo Baker, a sustainability expert who’s sharing everything you need to know to improve your understanding of the issue.

Jo has worked with big corporate organisations advising them on how to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Her range of expertise covers financial sustainability, ethical sustainability and being socially sustainable covering all kinds of topics from human rights to packaging.

We unpack how you can be more sustainable as a small business owner, and I’ll let you in on a secret.

It’s completely manageable and don’t worry you don’t have to take the plunge and become vegan.

Find out more by listening on the player link below or continue reading as a blog.

About Jo Baker and Collar Club

Jo runs Collar Club, a sustainable subscription box for dogs, delivering regular boxes of treats, toys and products which have been sustainably and ethically sourced.

She said: “My background and day job is in ethics and sustainability and that’s what I wanted to do with Collar Club.

“It’s really flexible, customers can pick how frequently they want the boxes and avoid certain things if their dog has allergies. 

“We also offer tougher toy options for different dog breeds!”

Jo’s sustainability background

Jo’s career has meant she’s learned about every element of sustainability.

She explained: “I began as a packaging buyer, removing single use plastic from ranges and looked for alternatives for packaging.

“Some of the things I’ve had to resource are umbrella covers and single use garment carriers.

“Then I changed to social where I was going into factories, making sure that the working conditions were suitable, that they weren’t working long hours and that it was safe.”

Where did the idea for Collar Club come from?

Collar Club was Jo’s second ethical subscription box idea, the first being a beauty box. And when she adopted her dog Winston, she had a lightbulb moment to focus on pets.

“He inspired me to look for sustainable, nutritional, ethical, high quality dog brands and I found so many of them.

“I started to think I could put them in a box, and that’s where the idea began,” she recalled.

“Within a year I had the concept finalised and branding ready, and soon we were sending the boxes out.”

Jo says it can be confusing for small businesses when they start to look into sustainability

Many small businesses try to do EVERYTHING when it comes to sustainability which can lead to a lot of stress. 

Jo says to choose a few things to focus on and this will make a difference.

Jo said: “It can be a bit of a rabbit hole so I would advise prioritising one or two things that are really important to you. You can’t do everything.

“You could join the Pet Sustainability Coalition which gives you access to a tool called the Sustainable Development Goals action plan.

“With this, you get 17 different goals which relate to environmental, social, economic and you can work through those and find out what you can change. The United Nations website is really useful too.”

What is greenwashing and how to avoid it?

Greenwashing is a term used when companies give false impressions or misleading information about how products are made environmentally.

Jo explains: “Recently, there was an article about bamboo cups, but it transpired that the material used to bind the bamboo is actually very dangerous, which negates the positive impact of the bamboo. This is an example of greenwashing.

“Smaller brands need to be transparent in order to avoid greenwashing, and not deceive their audience, and when you do make changes such as to packaging, make sure you shout about it!”

One current issue is poo bags and a push for pet owners to use compostable

The Dogfather Graeme Hall talked about this on Good Morning Britain urging dog owners to consider these to do their bit, and Jo’s feeling is that the Government needs to get behind reducing our pets carbon pawprint too.

She said: “It takes time to understand these terms, when it comes to poo bags and while a lot is being done, it can be confusing.

“Biodegradable and compostable are very different things, and the environmental benefit will depend on where the products end up.

“In order for this to work we really need more support from the Government to provide these bins and let us know how to use them correctly.”

How Jo approaches sustainability in her own business

Sustainability is at the heart of everything that Collar Club does and Jo shares how she goes about sourcing her subscription box items.

“We look at how the products are sourced, so I have a range own label treats and I can ask the manufacturer where the meat has come from.

“This ensures I know it’s low in air miles of carbon footprint and abides to animal welfare.

“I look at things like knowing where the ingredients are coming from, as well as the packaging.

“So if it’s plastic free, and whether it’s compostable and some products use no packaging at all.

“One company moved from a plastic pouch to a composited pouch which means I can work with them!

“When it comes to products, I look at whether they are using natural materials and have the right certifications for this or if they are up-cycled products.

“A lot of brands use reclaimed sea plastic or recycled bottles to create fillings and stuffing, so these are examples of the kind of things I look for.”

Petpreneurs can do good in many ways

It’s not all about products being sustainable, there are other things you can do to give back.

Jo gives collars to animal shelters and her aim is to give the rescue dogs something special in the hope this helps in them finding homes.

She explained: “A percentage of the profits from each box goes towards buying materials, and my mum makes collars which we give to shelters – hence the name. 

“We’ve send out about 250 collars in total.”

Jo is now building a community to support pet brands around sustainability

She said: “I want to use my skills to help other smaller businesses on their sustainability journey because it can be a lot to take in.

“I have a Facebook group for business owners to collaborate and talk about their sustainability problems and collectively they can get help.”

Jo also offers one to one coaching and to find out more you can contact her via her website, www.collarclub.co.uk/

Follow Jo on social media @collarclubsub on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you found this post helpful, you might like to read Why Justine Williams created Mumsnet for dog owners or Carla Finzel and her mission for every pet owner to be able to access District Vet Nurse care 

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