Membership Interview with Spencer Williams, CEO and co-founder of West Paw
Why is sustainability important to your
When West Paw started in 1996 there was a desire to embed sustainability into every product and business process. This was a reflection of the fundamental importance that we had as a pet product manufacturer to be the change we seek in the world. We started with a strong focus on environmental sustainability using organic catnip in toys and then later innovating as the first pet company to use recycled polyester fibers in textiles. Our social focus was on creating a manufacturing company that honored our employees with a people first mentality, providing excellent benefits, open book management and profit sharing. Over the years our investments in sustainability have become a natural part of the fiber that makes West Paw the unique company it is. Looking back over more than 25 years, I see that our largest decisions, such as a maintaining our Montana factories rather than outsourcing to joining the certified B Corp movement in 2013, to your Join the Loop dog toy recycling program are all natural decisions for West Paw, that run somewhat counter to convention. It is these decisions that have helped the company focus on sustainability as we grow for good making a positive impact.
How do you realize your vision for sustainability/what successes can you point to?
A company is made up of people. Individuals supporting shared core values and working to provide the best value for the customer. Much of what the team has created over the 25 years was well ahead of the conventional curve. We have worked to educate and inspire our customers and industry to pursue more sustainable best practices. Our customers – both consumers and retailers - appreciate our vision for sustainability because they are the brand champions. As a small, family owned company without the largest of marketing budgets, we see a growing following of supporters. These are people who vote with their wallet for a more sustainable product from a certified B Corp. Also, a tremendous success in our industry has been the Pet Sustainability Coalition. Over the last 10 years, this non profit has grown to including over 200 members from throughout our industry. West Paw was one of eight founding members who believed that as individual brands we could make a larger impact by founding a nonprofit that would help educate and support companies with a genuine interest in improving their sustainability. I’m proud of the work the Pet Sustainability Coalition has done, and the rapids pace of change within the pet industry.
What public policy priorities are of greatest importance to you at this time and why?
There is a tremendous amount of loss through our economy’s lack of diversity. ASBN continues work to bring more just and equitable policies forward to address diversity and inclusion. The US has tremendous talent and capacity from populations that are underrepresented in business and government. By addressing this through perception and policy I am hopeful that people can contribute to a more prosperous future.
Additionally, there is an urgent need to address climate change through policy that is economically viable. The use of cleaner energy, sustainable agriculture, and better recycling are key areas of interest for West Paw. We know that these are large issues that need policy change to support the future economy. By engaging businesses and policy changes, ASBN has the power to influence the change we seek.
How does being part of ASBN help you to fulfill your goal(s)?
West Paw is one small business and has made impacts independently. However, just as with the Pet Sustainability Coalition, when working with a larger group, the rate of impact is much more significant. We are members of ASBN to be a collective voice for change, to support the policies that will lead to a better future for the next generation. As a small business we do not have the depth of resources to support initiatives that matter and yet by being a support of ASBN, the work can move forward.