So many businesses claim that they're values-led companies, but how many actually walk the walk?
We didn't want to be just another "me-too" company, not with so much of ourselves on the line. Passion for horses, for dogs, for horsemanship, and for animal health and welfare are the principles upon which we founded this company. And they provide the motivating force for our commitment to giving back.
Over the years, our charitable and social activism activities center on three primary areas: Animal (specifically horse and dog) health and welfare; our customers' health and welfare, primarily breast cancer research; and the environment....
Horse health and welfare
The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC)
In 2001, a group of supplement manufacturers formed a not-for-profit organization called the National Animal Supplement Council to help ensure continued access to animal supplements despite the lack of a product category that make sense (currently animal supplements are considered either drugs or feeds). The NASC is dedicated to making sure that supplements continue to be available by working with the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to create fair, reasonable, responsible regulation that provides nationwide consistency. SmartPak is proud to be a founding member of the NASC. Our CEO Paal Gisholt serves on its Board of Directors.
NASC members must embrace the following standards:
- Accurate labels with complete ingredient listings
- No unsubstantiated claims on labels or in advertisements
- Manufacturing of products under rigorous quality standards
- Ensuring the safety of the products/ingredients by tracking adverse events.
How is SmartPak helping?
In addition to its CEO serving on the NASC board of Directors, SmartPak designed and built the NASC Adverse Events Reporting System (NAERS), a sophisticated database used by all NASC members to track the safety of supplement ingredients. Since 2004, the industry has been sharing data with each other and the FDA-CVM. By collecting this data, we can maintain the safe use of product and have visibility on any problems that may arise.
SmartPak: First to receive NASC Certification
As one of the founding members of the National Animal Supplement Council, SmartPak has been one of the foremost advocates for supplement manufacturer responsibility and ethical business and production practices. In November of 2004, SmartPak was the first supplement retailer to be certified by the NASC. Rated as having the "Best Manufacturing Practices," SmartPak received an "A" rating after its NASC audit and inspection.
From Bill Bookout, NASC president:
"SmartPak genuinely sees themselves as advocates for what is best for their customers – the continued availability of high-quality products. SmartPak has given generously of their time and expertise leading the development of The NASC Adverse Event Reporting System (NAERS). This system and its implementation is unprecedented in the animal health industry and is more comprehensive than the requirements mandated by the US Congress for either Human Dietary Supplements or animal feed. NAERS has been key to our continued progress with the regulatory agencies or those recommending regulatory policy."
Certified Organic Handler
Further confirming SmartPak's high standards in its production and operations practices, SmartPak voluntarily underwent a thorough inspection by the Baystate Organic Certifiers. Baystate Organic Certifiers is accredited by the National Organic Program to certify organic handlers, like SmartPak. Our facilities are inspected and re-certified each year.
Helping Horses in Need
SmartPak is committed to supporting the equine communities we serve and are proud to assist horses in need. Since our founding, we have routinely contributed items that are perfectly fine, but not appropriate for resale, to equine rescue organizations around the country. In the Fall of 2007, SmartPak came to the aid of horses affected by the Southern California wildfires, with a $5,000 donation to the USEF disaster fund, which assists equines of any breed that find itself victim of disasters.
Other recipients of aid to distressed horses have included Bay State Equine Rescue, CANTER New England, H.O.P.E., Inc., Days End Farm Horse Rescue, Inc., and UC Davis Center for Equine Health.
Supporting Breast Cancer Research
With a high percentage of female customers, many of whom have shared their stories of fighting breast cancer, SmartPak recognizes that this disease is one of women's biggest health concerns. Since the 2005 launch of its exclusive SmartPink™ product line to benefit breast cancer research, SmartPak has donated well over $50,000 to breast cancer research.
The SmartPink line started out small, but response to it has been strong. The SmartPink line of products includes fly sheets and fly masks, halters and a complete line of all-weather horse clothing, which is made by Kensington Protective Products exclusively for SmartPak Equine. The popularity and success of the program has lead to an expansion of the product line to include protective sheets and winter blankets. Additional new products are always under development. The SmartPink product line is a great way for horse riders and owners, as well as our company, to contribute to research and show their support.
In addition, locally, a team of SmartPak employees participates each year in the annual Avon Walk for breast cancer. To participate, each walker must raise a minimum of $1,800 in donations. To get the fundraising going, SmartPak corporate donates the initial $900 to each employee participant.
A Strong Commitment to Protecting the Environment
Since the founding of our company, SmartPak has been mindful of "treading lightly on the earth." But when several of us saw Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, we shifted gears from simply being mindful of environmental issues to making them a serious priority where we would spend significant amount of time and investment capital.
We continue to add to the number of projects already under way. With a great deal of pride in our company's efforts, here is the full list of our environmental initiatives:
- The blister material we use is 100% recycled PET (35% post consumer). So unlike the virgin plastic used in buckets, SmartPaks are already on their second life.
- We chose PET, despite its being more expensive than other plastics, for three reasons: 1) it has the best oxygen and moisture barrier properties (that's why it's used for soda), 2) as Category 1 plastic, PET is the most widely and successfully recycled plastic in the US (could be your fleece jacket and the carpeting in your home both contain recycled PET), and 3) other plastics like PVC, while cheaper, utilize Chlorine (PVC stands for Poly Vinyl Chloride).
- We use new high-precision blister forming equipment that has enabled us to form a strong blister while reducing the thickness of the SmartPak blisters from 30 mil to 21 mil plastic, a 30% reduction. This means that we often use less total plastic to put a product in SmartPaks than one packed in those heavy white supplement buckets.
- We replaced the cardboard shipping box (which was prone to tearing) with an ultrathin shrink wrap. This change reduces the amount of packaging by over 85% on average.
- We recently changed the shape of the SmartPaks to make them easier to recycle. We altered the shape ever-so-slightly so that the new SmartPaks stack twice as densely as before. This means that our customers can take half as many trips to the recycling center. (We thank you for recycling their SmartPaks).
- All our order paperwork is printed on recycled paper.
- All our cardboard shipper boxes are made from certified recycled cardboard.
- We reused cardboard boxes whenever possible. Most of the product sold in the equine industry (including that sold by tack shops) moves around in cardboard boxes. Rather than breaking those boxes down for recycling or throwing them away, we re-use those boxes to ship product to customers. This does take extra effort. But it's right for the planet and helps us to keep prices/shipping low.
- We use "master shippers" to place multiple SmartPaks in a single larger shipper box rather than putting each SmartPak in its own box. This saves cardboard, is more efficient to ship, and is easier on barn managers. We recently expanded the size of the largest shipper box to be even more efficient.
- We have custom-sized shipping boxes made to our specifications that fit the SmartPaks so tightly that we do not need to use void fill (peanuts/air filled bags that can't be recycled) to protect SmartPaks. This conserves materials, and it also ensures that the package takes up as little space in the UPS truck as possible, conserving fuel. (Buckets, on the other hand, come in so many sizes that it is tough to get a precise fit, and often must be shipped with lots of void fill and/or separately from other items.)
Lighting and Electrical Conservation
- We have replaced older warehouse lighting with modern, efficient lighting (and we got this partially funded by the power company).
- We have installed occupancy sensors in all private offices, bathrooms, and conference rooms.
- We have installed windows and skylights to increase the amount of natural light. In some rooms, we don't even turn the lights on except in evenings in winter.
- We have removed incandescent lighting, which is an energy hog.
- We operate our heavy industrial machines off 480 volt power, which is more efficient than 208.
- We have replaced old fashioned computer monitors with flat panel displays, which use much less power and generate less heat.
- We learned that our main printer (the one named Seattle Slew) is far more energy efficient (and more economical) than desktop printers, so we direct major print jobs that way (and print double sided where possible).
Heating and Cooling
- We've purchased energy saving software to turn our AC and heat on/off at exactly the right time of day to get the office to a comfortable temperature (starting earlier on very hot or cold days and just in time on milder days).
- We allow a wider range of acceptable temperatures in the office than we did previously (we operate at +/-2 degrees). This causes the heat or A/C to kick on less often and run longer, which is more efficient.
- To reduce air conditioning load, we cover our skylights in the summer, and draw the blinds on very hot days.
- We use a hyper-efficient evaporative cooling system to cool the building when the air is dry enough to permit its use.
- We use outside air for cooling needs when the temperature is cold enough.
- To help reduce the cooling load in the summer, we've worked to reduce incidental heat generation in our office and facilities. We don't have any incandescent lights in the whole facility (fluorescent bulbs burn much cooler). We have replaced most of our CRT style computer monitors with cool running, energy efficient flat panels. And we have reduced the number of heat sealing machines (which generate a lot of heat) from 4 down to 2 hyper-fast machines.
- We use a heat exchanger system to recapture otherwise lost heat/air conditioning as we draw fresh air into the facility.
- The "Barn Buddies" program contributes to significant fuel savings. When the UPS driver drops off 10 packages in that one stop, that half mile of travel by UPS compares to 20 individual trips to the tack store in 20 vehicles. If the tack store is 10 miles away, on average, that's 400 miles of round trip driving vs. the half mile traveled by the UPS driver.
- We take delivery of most of our supplements in large, reusable bulk totes. This saves fuel in two ways. The bulk totes often can accommodate up to 2X as much product per pallet, helping to place fewer trucks on the road. We also avoid shipping around a lot of heavy white plastic tubs whenever we buy in bulk (many buckets weigh more than a pound).
- Our supply chain is very efficient compared to most of our competitors. We buy in large quantities—full pallets if not full truckloads shipped point to point. By shipping full pallets, and full trucks, we avoid the inefficiencies, waste, and poorly "cubed" trucks associated with piecemeal supply.
- With over 200 people coming to work at SmartPak each day, the energy used in commuting is significant. We already have quite a number of people from our production team commuting together in vans, and we are looking at ways to encourage and incentivize the rest of our team to do more commuting together.
- We've used Quad Graphics as our printer for the past four years, and we are proud of that association. We chose Quad in part based on their excellent environmental track record. Quad was the first printer to use soy based inks. They have strong energy conservation and environmental policies. They charge a little more, but we feel good about using the same printers used by many of the country's top environmental organizations.
- We use a smaller version of our catalog (about 70 pages) that contains only best sellers that we mail to prospects. This saves a great deal of paper compared to our competitors, most of whom circulate a book with over twice as many pages.
- We work to minimize the number of catalogs that go to homes that are not interested by using sophisticated targeting techniques. We also maintain a "do not mail" file to eliminate catalogs going to homes of people who've requested that we not contact them.
- Because we have so many customers who use our website for most of their ordering, we circulate our catalogs on a less frequent cycle than many of our competitors (yes, we track these things).
- Our main office printer is set to print double sided as the default.
- We have moved most of our processes to paperless systems. All customer orders other than fax orders and prescriptions are processed with paperless systems. We recently put our purchase order system over to a paperless fax board system.
- We use email for all interoffice correspondence – no memos.
- We have an aggressive recycling program in the office: we separate all recyclables into paper, glass, plastic, and garbage.