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22nd Jul 2020

Burns on Sustainability & Environmental Pawprint

by John Burns BVMS MRCVS

The pet industry has undergone colossal growth in recent years, with ownership and spending far higher than in previous decades. Alongside this boom, greener, more conscious living has begun to permeate all elements of our lives, not least how we treat and adapt our lifestyles for our beloved pets.

At Burns we are taking the lead on the sustainability challenge. The term sustainability was first used two or three centuries ago and meant making use of natural, renewable resources that people could continue to rely on long-term. It was applied to forestry.

Now, we live in a world where sustainability means meeting the needs of our modern society, but without compromising the needs of future generations. Sustainability is often referred to under three pillars – profits, planet, and people. Make that four pillars by including pets.

Perhaps we shouldn’t keep pets at all as they consume natural resources such as food, energy and packaging.  Yet, having a pet meets the needs of the present by providing support, companionship, love and affection.

The pet food industry faces a number of challenges to sustainability; for example, energy use, packaging, waste disposal, emissions, food miles.

At Burns Pet Nutrition we have a long history of addressing the challenge of sustainability and continuing to make changes to our approach and business to ensure we can be the best we can be on as many sustainability issues as possible.

Pets

The entire concept of Burns Pet Nutrition is based on promoting health and wellbeing of pets through natural, wholesome food at an economical and affordable cost.  Burns foods are highly digestible which means that the amount of faeces (poo) produced is reduced, thereby resulting in a clear environmental benefit also.

We have a vegetarian food called Penlan egg and rice and we use lower amounts of meat (the right amount needed and no more) which is better for the planet. Many other brands follow the trend for high protein, involving higher levels of meat consumption, increasing the carbon footprint.

Planet

At Burns we use sheep wool instead of glass fibre wool for insulating new buildings and have a bore hole for our water supply at HQ. The company also grows vegetables and produces free range eggs on our own farm and has supplied free bicycles to staff to cycle to work.  Our conservation projects led to Burns winning the RSPB Spirit of Farming Award for Wales in 2012.

Energy at Burns is as ‘green’ as possible – we’ve installed over 100 kw of solar heating panels and have in the past provided electric, hybrid company cars for staff. In a major new project, we’ve installed a biomass plant for heating and hot water at Burns Parc y Bocs Farm Shop and Burns Foundation HQ, both in Kidwelly.

Biomass energy will also be used in our new factory for heating and hot water at to cook the Burns Penlan moist food range.  The biomass wood chip comes from our own woodlands which we manage sustainably by replanting. We have also just implemented an expensive revamp of its dry food packaging to use plastic which is [now] completely recyclable. A similar change to moist packaging is in the pipeline.

Profits

Of course, projects like these come with an economic cost.  Sustainability means taking a long-term view rather than focusing on short-term profit.  Burns Pet Nutrition is able to do that because our company is wholly owned by myself the founder (John Burns) – I have no responsibility to outside shareholders seeking short-term profit.

People

At Burns Pet Nutrition we foster sustainable communities via our own charitable Foundation (The John Burns Foundation) with eight full time staff providing support to local communities such as the elderly, isolated and those with learning difficulties.

Post-coronavirus, Burns will institute a Love Local – Shop Local campaign to encourage pet owners to support sustainable communities and we have a loyalty club for the high street to promote local communities and to keep wealth in local areas.

Burns Pet Nutrition was the first pet industry company to sign up to the Living Wage Foundation commitment to pay the Living Wage to all staff.  All employees receive benefits which exceed statutory guidelines on holidays, free time, major company contribution to employee pension scheme.  Every employee is provided with a company car, as a car is almost essential in our rural area of West Wales where our HQ is based.

Burns Pet Nutrition offers a dedicated advice service on pet health and nutrition provided by a team of in-house trained nutrition advisors wth a freephone number and live web chat. We don’t use chat bots!

How can pet owners be involved?

Reduce overall consumption. Most domestic pets are morbidly overweight.  We need to reduce the amount of food and feed fewer treats. Do your own sustainability audit of pet food suppliers, and consider the economic, environmental and social performance as well as transparency of the business.

As consumers, pet owners make up one in three households so have enormous power to demand sustainable practices from pet food manufacturers and suppliers. The potential for change [and challenge] is huge.

 

by John Burns BVMS MRCVS
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a member of PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers Association)
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British hen welfare trust
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