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When improving sustainability, businesses should start with culture

When improving sustainability, businesses should start with culture

Over the past few weeks, COP26 has brought businesses, policy makers, governments, and advocates together to address these issues. It has reinforced a sense of urgency and highlighted the critical importance of businesses making sustainability a priority.

As a company, Pets at Home is driven by our values, and we are proud of our strong culture. But it’s also important to look outwards, at the impact that a business and colleagues are having on society – especially when it comes to the environment, people, and of course, pets.

A lot of our effort this year has been in response to the pandemic. But we also know that our impacts extend so much further than our stores, support office, or vet practices.

A particular area of focus has been on our broader environmental impact and sustainability. We conducted a detailed report to map and quantify our Scope 3 emissions to fully understand how the manufacture, use and disposal of our products contribute to climate change and to help us pinpoint where our intervention can make the most difference.

In response, we launched Our Better World Pledge, which covers our commitment to the planet, in addition to people and pets. It’s our mission to become the most responsible pet care business in the world.

But as an FTSE 250 company with hundreds of colleagues across a variety of businesses ranging from retail to vet practices to distribution centres to groom rooms, it is not always easy to embed and foster sustainable practices. A meaningful and long-lasting commitment to sustainability must come from the ‘bottom up’ as much as the ‘top down’ and you need to have buy-in from colleagues at all stages of the business.

Why culture matters so much

Our vision, culture, behaviours, and values underpin everything that we do. They guide our relationships with our stakeholders inside and outside our business boundaries and strengthen our pet care ecosystem.

Sustainability encompasses not only our relationship with our environment but also how we engage with stakeholders to take account of different views and perspectives.

These relationships have been formed over many years and we are proud that this has always been part of our DNA.

Our engagement strategy, of course, has been particularly important over the last year during the pandemic.

Keeping our colleagues and customers safe and continuing to feed the nation’s pets and provide essential veterinary care has required working closely alongside others and making many adaptations to our ways of working.

This approach is also critical if a business is to embed sustainability practices that last. It’s easy to introduce a new policy or initiative but what’s tricky is ensuring that it’s still in place one, two or even five years down the line.

Sustainability is simply not going to improve with a quick fix and the only way we will make progress as a society is to commit long term.

It has to become a matter of culture, mission, and company values so that it becomes part of the fabric of a business.

Having an impact

Having the full support and buy-in of our colleagues across the business has been pivotal to what we have achieved to date.

We are taking steps to transition our business to embrace a low carbon future and decouple our future growth from climate impacts.

We already purchase 100% of our electricity from renewable sources.

Recognising the importance of partnership and collaboration has been key.

This is because we know that we will achieve progress faster if we can learn from each other, and together influence change where we need it to happen.

We’ve made good headway across all our key areas, including reducing Co2 emissions by 39% and ensuring that 79% of our own brand packaging is recyclable, recycled or compostable.

But we still have progress to make. By 2025 we want to be leading the way in sustainable pet care products.

By 2030 we want to have maximised the value of our waste by adopting circular economy principles and to be net-zero carbon operationally.

By 2040 it is our goal to have a net-zero value chain using a science-based initiative approved methodology.

Ultimately, it’s a team effort – we all must understand this and individuals, as businesses and as a global community.

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