Over the past few years, we've been thinking deeply about how Ainsworth Pet Nutrition impacts and affects the local community and larger environment. Ultimately, we have come to believe in the idea of the 'triple bottom line:' paying attention to people, planet and profit. To have a healthy business, we simply must have a healthy environment and a healthy community; and in the long run, for one to thrive, they all need to thrive. Our success requires it, and the program we've built and detailed here is based on this perspective.
Our goals are broad and come from questioning every aspect of our business through an environmental and social perspective. We’ve asked: "Is this harming the environment? Do we need this much packaging? Can we use less fossil fuels for this? How can we avoid throwing this away? What about the community? How can we make it better? How can we raise awareness on the importance of a healthy environment?" These questions are the basis for where we are going.
At Ainsworth, we feel that being a leader in business also means being a leader in the community. And what better way to lead than by example? Through various outreach initiatives, we are encouraging not only Ainsworth employees to become more involved in community organizations and events, but also the general public through unique opportunities with conservation-based roots. Our participation in everything from the American Cancer Society's Daffodil Days, to pulling trash from our local creek, to supporting local educational and arts institutions highlights our dedication to responsibly working together to develop and beautify our neighborhoods and to conserve the resources that make our community, our home.
We studied our entire manufacturing process from an environmental perspective and determined that we can reduce our negative environmental impact in three key areas: waste, water, & energy. We've created teams to focus on these major components and have set goals and taken steps to continuously reduce them all.
These are some of the big initiatives we plan to accomplish in the next few years:
Many of our brands have supplemental components that strive toward our social and environmental goals – trying to give back to the people, pets and world around us. Whether it's animals in need, animal shelters or carbon offsets, there are numerous programs in place that help each time you purchase one of our products.
We want to continue all we are doing and more, focusing on what as mentioned above -- animal's in need, animal shelters, and carbon offsets. For 2012 some of our specific goals include donating over $2,000,000 dollars (largely through Rachael's Rescue) toward animal's in need, while continuing to purchase carbon offsets for the entire Back to Basics product line.
In a perfect world, our pet foods would get to you without using any fossil fuels, road time, or truck of any kind. But, until we figure out how to e-mail our pet foods, thats not yet possible- but it's the utopian ideal we are striving for. Our goal is to ship our products to you while creating as little environmental harm as possible, focused on minimalizing the use of fossil fuels, miles on the road, & excess truck capacity.
These are some of the big goals we hope to accomplish in the next few years:
Packaging is an interesting and broad subject. We have to think about the entire picture, from what raw materials are being sourced and utilized to how we design and print our packages. We also have to think about how it gets disposed of by the end-user. It's life cycle thinking, and we will be working on influencing all of it. We want to do our part, but we also want to encourage you to do yours, while simultaneously pushing our suppliers to follow our environmental principles.
These are some of the big initiatives we plan to accomplish in the next few years:
Learn how we are encouraging and promoting our fellow employees, the general public and other local businesses toward community development, involvement and environmental awareness.LEARN MORE
Learn how, through closed-loop systems and continuous reduction of our environmental impacts, we now recycle almost 90% (6,000 tons) of our waste, and how our overall impact is less than it's ever been.LEARN MORE
Learn how our products incorporate environmental efforts, community outreach and social causes.LEARN MORE
Learn about how we are rethinking the way we are shipping our products. One of our top goals is to take away 1,000,000 miles of road-time. And we are already at 100,000.LEARN MORE
Learn how we are incorporating life-cycle thinking into the way we package our foods, and how we achieved our first big step: reducing our own materials used by 7%.LEARN MORE
On May 17, 2011, over 40 Ainsworth employees gathered behind our Meadville plant on a rainy Northwestern Pennsylvania day to plant over 100 various species of trees. Purchased from a local nursery, the trees were planted along French Creek and the proposed extension of Ernst Trail. This nature trail is a popular Meadville destination that already extends for over five miles throughout the lush bottomlands of the French Creek Valley, and Ainsworth has offered its land as a pathway for the expansion.
The Ainsworth team has a goal to plant over 500 additional trees throughout our grounds and surrounding properties and parks over the next three years. Through the guidance of our very own master gardener, we are working to lead our community in caring for the trees as they reach maturity. We have determined that if we plant 500 trees, we can offset 120 tons of carbon.
On September 10, 2011, the Ainsworth team joined with the French Creek Valley Conservancy to take the annual French Creek Valley Creek Clean-Up event to a new level, by creating a Corporate Competition Division. In previous years the clean up had attracted hundreds of people from regional schools, non-profit organizations, troops and other groups in an effort to pull as much garbage out of the creek as possible in one day.
With the addition of the corporate competition division, attendance the event grew by nearly 200 people. In fact, the Conservancy boasted its most successful year ever, pulling over 23,000 pounds of trash from the watershed. The Ainsworth team pulled 1,236 pounds of trash from the creek. This year, five local businesses brought teams for the inaugural corporate competition. Our goal is to get at least ten corporate competitors for next year's clean up to compete to win the ‘Travelling Hellbender Trophy" and bragging rights, of course.
In our biggest production plant, we put a lot of focus on recycling. We've even created a team solely for that purpose. When they're not busy putting recycling bins everywhere, they're looking for ways to recycle other things. As a food company, we have a unique type of waste — organic waste — which is often very useful for other companies. So now, a good portion of what was once landfill waste is now being used as fertilizer for farmers (this is what we mean by closing the loop). We're also looking to turn this waste into bio-energy. Our recycling team won the first ever Environmental Sustainability Award, created just for them, for all the hard work they've done.
We also have a group of people focused on reducing the amount of waste that gets sent to the landfill. Obviously, recycling ties in with this. We believe that if more people recycle, more options for recycling will be created. This could make it more difficult to throw things away, which could lead to less landfill waste. This has been a big focus for us this year, and since the beginning of 2011 we have reduced the amount of our waste sent to landfills by 85%. In fact, in August 2011, we didn't send one iota of waste to the landfill.
For our Rachael Ray Nutrish pet food line, all of Rachael's proceeds are donated to help animals in need. Currently, the program has given over $2,500,000 to-date, with a goal of raising $2,000,000 more. 2011 saw a supplemental component to this program, where we have and will donate an additional $1 for every Facebook like.
For Back to Basics, our goal has been to completely offset any and all greenhouse gas emissions we emit in the production and distribution of Back to Basics products. To do this, we have to calculate all our operational emissions – from turning on the lights in our office to measuring all the energy and fossil fuels that we purchase. We then invest in carbon sequestration projects through the Carbonfund.org Foundation, like reforestation projects in Panama, which is a sustainable forestry program offsetting the very emissions we create.
We started looking at our shipping process with the goal to ship less distance and use less fossil fuels. While all of our products are manufactured in our own plants, right here in the USA, we needed to shift some product lines from one plant to another, to ensure that products would be shipped to the closest possible destination. In the end, it saved 100,000 miles on the road and 25,000 less gallons of fossil fuel. Our goal is get this up to 1,000,000 less miles. We're confident we'll get there, and we'll be sure to tell you when we do.
Sometimes the simplest ideas can have the biggest impact. We noticed that truck drivers often have idle time. Sometimes they stay inside the cab trying to stay warm as they wait for the truck to be loaded or unloaded. Sometimes they are waiting in line to have their truck weighed. The problem is, running a big diesel engine truck to stay warm isn't the best option. So we bought little engines that heat the cab and allow drivers to shut off the motor, while still staying warm. This one simple measure has saved 20,000 gallons of fuel so far.
Sometimes when we look at a product, we ask ourselves, "Do they really need that much packaging?" Quite frankly, when we did that with our own packaging, we found room for improvement. We found room to improve & ended up reducing the amount of packaging we need by 7%, company-wide. We call this package engineering, and it has now become part of how we design packages from the start. So every time we make a packaging change or create something new, we look at it with an environmental eye and ask ourselves, "are we being wasteful?" It's the question we will be asking every time, from now on.
Two of our recycling and packaging masters, Tim & Brett, noticed that we use a lot of plastic wrap when we ship our products from production plants to stores. They suggested that we switch our plastic wrap, which also is oil-based, to a biodegradable wrap. The result? We avoided using 100 tons of the oil-based plastic wrap. And, since the biodegradable wrap is stronger, we use less of it, so we've cut the amount we have to use by 16 tons. This savings helped offset the higher cost of the biodegradable option.
Many of you may not be aware that Ainsworth Pet Nutrition has a sister company in the Joplin, Missouri area called Hampshire Pet Products. While plant facilities were not significantly affected by the recent tornado, a number of Ainsworth Pet Nutrition families have been directly impacted by the loss of property and, in some cases, loss of their primary residence. The devastation in the Joplin community has been well documented in the news. It is difficult to comprehend the extent of the impact on property and families in the Joplin community.
To support these families in their efforts to rebuild, Ainsworth will be matching employee donations. However the greater need in the entire Joplin community that affects our families and so many others are also of critical importance to us.
Efforts to help these people and pets are being managed by the local disaster relief efforts of the American Red Cross and the ASPCA, working in conjunction with the Missouri Humane Society. We encourage you to donate what you can to help people and their beloved pet family members in this time of need:
Thank you in advance for your support in this time of need for Ainsworth families and their pets.
Sean Lang, CEO
Ainsworth Pet Nutrition