Companies with a Conscience
Today, it isn’t enough to simply pay lip service to social responsibility. Actions do speak louder than words and these six entrepreneurs learned that charity actually begins at the office. See how this special group of dog lovers is doing its part to make this world a better place to live.
Spencer Williams, West Paw DesignConnections are important for Spencer Williams. The self-described passionate dog owner wanted to create top-quality, durable pet toys and beds. But more than that, he wanted to create a connection between those who make the product and those who use them.
“That connection ensures that you know our products are safe and our employees are treated wonderfully well,” he says. West Paw Design reflects the values Williams holds dear. He says he won’t make short-term choices for short-term gain but, instead, takes a longer, more sustainable view. He believes in minimizing negative environmental impacts while fostering local and world communities.
“We provide a workplace for disabled individuals including job placement,” he says. “They get a quality job; that person gets to leave a sheltered environment and leave home and do real work.”
He points out that this allows his employees to connect with people they may otherwise not have met.
Williams uses only regenerated fibres in the stuffing for his products—brand new fibres coming from post-consumer bottles.
“It’s absolutely premium because when you take a drink bottle, its incredibly high-grade plastic. It feels softer and more durable.”
His decisions are making a difference already. So far, he has diverted 25 tons of plastic bottles from landfills.westpawdesign.com
Mark Klaiman, Pet CampWhen you think about a 6,000 square-foot overnight and daycare facility for dogs, don’t think traditional kennel. At Pet Camp in San Francisco, think next generation. “We have outdoor play space, a swimming pool, classical music 24/7 with 20 sets of speakers,” says Mark Klaiman. “We really try and accommodate what you would want for your own pet in your own house. We built an urban facility to cater to urban dogs—none have a big back yard in San Francisco.”
Dogs staying at Pet Camp are separated according to size or special needs, and play within the groups they are comfortable in. Small dogs, for instance, have their own private floor in the facility and never have to lay their eyes on the big dogs. Klaiman says that his facility operates in the least environmentally intrusive manner possible. 252 solar panels, the largest privately financed solar panel system in San Francisco, produce 33 kilowatts of power. Two 20-foot-diameter ceiling fans keep the air circulating, moving 68,000 cubic feet of air and using less electricity than needed to power a light bulb. All wattage was converted from 110 to 220. “The net result is our electrical use, in terms of dollars, went from $25,000 a year to $9,000,” says Klaiman. “We’ve cut our electrical consumption by two-thirds.” Even doggy-doo is converted into electricity. Klaiman delivers dog waste to a local biomass facility. His “green” workplace, which also includes quality healthcare and profit-sharing for employees, allows him to look into the mirror and like what he sees.
“We provide quality but also have a moral obligation to do more. It’s not just about the money; it’s about loving what we do and being respected by the community.” petcamp.com
Patricia Queirolo, Alqo WasiWhen its name means "Dog Home" in the native language of the Inca, you know this company is committed to dogs. Patricia Queirolo, its 23-yearold owner, makes ethnic apparel for canines, buying the hand-woven textiles (hand-made, hand-loomed, hand-embroidered, hand-knit) from women weavers in local Peruvian communities.
Owner Patricia Queirolo believes that, living in a third-world country, she must help those less fortunate in “becoming something more.” “I’m in a good economic position so I can do something to help others,” she says. “It’s not only about making money, but contributing to my country.” Queirolo believes companies should not only create profits for themselves, but should contribute in some way to their communities. Quality of life is directly related to social responsibility, she states, and, in underdeveloped countries such as hers, this goes beyond charity. Creating good jobs and being environmentally responsible helps reduce poverty by generating sustainable income and therefore sustainable development for her country.
In communities like Puno, located 2,700 meters above sea level, people suffer the effects of freezing weather and more than 64 percent of townsfolk live in poverty, a quarter of those in extreme poverty. Yet Puno has the best weaving technique, Queirolo says, and her company can give these women work by asking them to do embroidery or weaving.
“They can feed themselves and make their own communities better.” alqowasi.com
Kristen Smith, Planet Dog FoundationThe Planet Dog founders knew they could make socially responsible dog toys—toys that would meet their goal of developing innovative high-end products but with a nod to social responsibility like that modeled at Ben & Jerry’s or Patagonia. They came up with Orbee-Tuff, a signature compound that bounces, floats, provides safe chewing fun, comes in a variety of toy shapes, and, best of all, is recyclable.
Celebrating their tenth anniversary in business this year, Planet Dog makes toys, leashes, collars, and travel gear for discerning dog owners. Even better than a decade in business is the founders’ commitment to their community. They created the Planet Dog Foundation, to whom they donate an ever-increasing percentage of their sales.
“The Foundation is a grant-making organization,” says Foundation Director Kristen Smith. “We give cash grants to small non-profits that train and provide dogs to people in need: service dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, canine search and rescue, police and fire dogs.”
Smith said dogs have an amazing capacity to help people in need. Beyond that, she says, studies have shown that companies having social giving programs have increased employee morale. “I am proud to work for a company that places a high priority on giving back to the community,” she says. “Dog lovers appreciate what dogs can do to help people.” planetdog.com