University of Tennessee
In my interview with Karin Jennings, Executive Assistant/Office Manager at West Paw, Jennings shared that Williams “was a founding member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition,” which strives to discover new, safe ways to create better products for pets. With a background in sustainability in pet products, Williams created a B Corp that aligns closely with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #12, responsible production and consumption.
SeaFlex is the newest product line for West Paw, but another important aspect of this innovation is their ZogoFlex material used in the toys. Jennings spoke to me about the product, “The ZogoFlex product is infinitely recyclable because we control the product coming back in, so we are able to keep perpetually making dog toys out of it.” West Paw offers a “Join the Loop” program in which pet parents can send in their used ZogoFlex dog toys, and West Paw will wash and grind them down to be recycled into another toy. Not only do they offer an environmentally friendly product to begin with, they can recycle their product infinitely.
Spencer Williams has always been a dog lover. When I asked Jennings how the idea for West Paw originated, she said “Spencer just wanted to make things.” He was able to combine his passion for dogs as well as the environment and create West Paw, which is continuing to change the way the pet industry operates. Williams and his family had a chocolate Labrador retriever, and Williams wanted to do something that created jobs in his small Montana town, something that made a better environment, and something that his family could enjoy as well. In the early stages of the business, they produced both dog and cat toys. Williams knew from the minute he got into business that he wanted to do it in the most sustainable way he could, so his first step was all-natural, organic cat nip in their cat toys; something that was practically unheard of in 1996.
This innovation not only changed West Paw’s business, but it has affected the entire pet industry. Jennings mentioned in our interview, “our innovations often get copied by others, but we kind of take that as a compliment. We are glad to know that we are creating greater impact by doing the things we do.” The way competitors manufacture their products has become more and more relevant since West Paw has shown there is a way of doing business for good and profiting. The impact that West Paw has had on the environment has been extremely positive. Not only have they kept 16 million plastic bottles out of landfills, but even at the lowest levels they are recycling. Just for storage in their warehouses they are known for using banana boxes and other recycled cardboard. The long-term effects from West Paw include the eco-friendly creation and processes as well as the long-term connections made as an employee. West Paw has created so many job opportunities, and the employees in the company are so content that West Paw has even considered certifying under SDG #3 as well, good health and well-being.
Because West Paw is so dedicated to sustainable, eco-friendly practices, they have innovated the way others do business. Competitors have begun offering rival products that have the sustainable label as well, since more and more people are paying attention. Another benefit from the business was just what Spencer Williams had in mind, creating job opportunities, job retention and employee wellbeing. When I asked Jennings for what she considered to be a “high-point” during her time with West Paw she said, “Our culture is surprisingly wonderful. We are very supportive, and we practice accountability in our work and with each other.” Not only has Williams grown job opportunities, but he has grown a culture that can recognize its strengths and appreciate what it is doing.
Since 1996, a lot has changed, but something that has not changed is West Paw’s dedication to making the best products for pets. The innovations that come from this business have benefited society positively inside and outside of the walls of West Paw. Not only are the employees happy to be a part of something like West Paw, but consumers are happy to purchase a product they know they can trust. Every product that comes from West Paw is made from some sort of recycled, eco-friendly material. They have kept more than 16 million plastic bottles out of the oceans, broken down and remade countless toys, and even recycled fabrics for the pet beds. Sustainable Development Goal #12, responsible production and consumption, hits the nail on the head for this company. Every chance they see to make a positive difference for the environment and society, they take. Like Karin Jennings said multiple times in our interview, “it’s just in our DNA.”
Karin Jennings, Executive Assistant/ Office Manager
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Business Website: https://westpaw.com
Year Founded: 1996
Number of Employees: 51 to 200