Creating a sustainable world for pets, people and the planet, an interview with Royal Canin

When thinking about sustainability and your personal actions, did you ever consider your pet’s food? What they eat? Or how it is packed? Well, Royal Canin does, as the manufacturer of cat and dog food strives to create a sustainable world for pets, people, and planet. But what does this mean?

To better understand what actions the brand is taking around sustainability, Joeri Van den Bergh connects with Fabrice Mathieu, Global Sustainability Director and administrator of The Royal Canin Foundation at Royal Canin.


Q: Creating a sustainable world for pets, people and planet is a clear but ambitious goal. I’m curious how Royal Canin is addressing this. Let’s start with the planet. What actions are you taking in this area?

“We are working on different areas when it comes to the ‘planet’ dimension of sustainability. Think about recyclable packaging – it’s not only a priority for us to create recyclable packaging, but a top priority to make sure the packaging gets recycled. If you’re only focusing on the creation of the material as such, you’re not doing the full job. The problem with packaging is that all countries do not have similar collection, sorting, and recycling infrastructures. We must therefore develop a packaging that is designed for circularity. It is like the telecommunication industry, where you can buy a 5G-compatible device, but the 5G network is not yet available everywhere. Our bags are designed to be recycled where appropriate collection, sorting and recycling structures exist. We also work with local authorities or partners to help advance their infrastructures, and take part in developing local solutions. In some markets, there are some players already well established (e.g., TerraCycle®) that can help collect and recycle packaging, but this is only part of the solution.

I’m also convinced that, as a business, we have a role to play in educating people, explaining what we do, and why. For a long time, everyone was talking about ozone layers. Now it’s about greenhouse gas and CO2. If people don’t understand what this means, they won’t be inclined to act. So, it’s vital to explain these basic concepts to engage people. This includes recycling packaging, because the first step towards circularity is carefully sorting packaging by pet owners, and we must ensure we do our share in educating pet owners on this topic.

We’re also working on raw materials, and particularly for innovations in deforestation and the protection of the biodiversity of fish. All our Brazilian soy is Proterra or RTRS certified, and 98% of our pulp and paper come from recycled sources or certified virgin pulp. All our marine ingredients come from sustainable sources too. Our nutritional philosophy is built on the importance of the nutrient, not the ingredient. So, when you see fish oil in the ingredient list, it’s not about fish oil for us, but about omega-3 fatty acid, that we can potentially source from different raw materials.

Regarding proteins, we know that feeding 10 billion people by 2050 will create tensions on the protein market, and the pet-food sector will unlikely be able to continue to operate with proteins as we know them today. So, we are working on innovations in this area, ensuring we secure a sufficient volume of proteins for the future, both from current and novel protein sources. Here again, having a nutritional philosophy based on the nutrient helps explore alternatives and innovate.”


Q: Let’s move on to the ‘people’ aspect of sustainability. How do you tackle this social pillar?

“For me, sustainability is not only a planet agenda, but also a people (and pets!) agenda. So, there is an important social dimension that we work on via the Royal Canin Foundation. To support the positive role of pets in human health and welfare, the Royal Canin Foundation focuses on three key areas: the health and welfare of working dogs, pets in support of human medical health, and pets in support of human mental health. In 2021, we have been funding different projects around the world such as COVID-19 and cancer detection, using dogs in developing communication skills for children with autism, and developing certification for the trainers of medical detection dogs. It’s about putting cats and dogs at the center of what we do; that’s important for us. Next to this, we are also piloting a program with the Lincoln Institute in Australia to help vet students thrive in their future careers. We equip them with business capabilities and social awareness so that they can better cope with stress and tensions in a profession where too many vets are unfortunately quitting their job too early due to stress. Another initiative is how we are mapping our social impact in our supply chain to find ways to help the thousands of farmers working in our supply chain thrive.”


PET (owners)

Q: And finally pets and pet owners. One of the questions I’m often confronted with is: ‘Are consumers – or pet owners – prepared to pay more for sustainability?’ What is your take on that?

“Today, sustainable products are usually more expensive than conventional ones since they have not reached full scale or adoption by the majority. However, I do believe that sustainability is already becoming the new normal. Thanks to economies of scale at all levels in the value chain, sustainable products will not mean that people have to pay a ‘green premium’. A sustainable product is a necessity for future generations, and it is our responsibility to contribute to this effort. We’re committed to taking action to reduce our footprint and making the investments needed together with partners across our value chain worldwide. I like to refer to trust, as I believe that having a good product is not enough anymore to gain trust from consumers: firms must also build trust through the life cycle of the product, end to end. “


In summary, Royal Canin strives to create a sustainable world for pets, people, and planet. Fabrice Mathieu mentioned for the planet pillar how the brand is working on recyclable packaging and is helping it to get recycled, and is also working on sustainable ingredient sourcing. When talking about social impact, the Royal Canin Foundation plays a vital role, and when zooming in on pets and owners, Fabrice is convinced that a better world for cats and dogs does not have to imply a higher price for sustainable products.


Hungry for more? Stay tuned as we will release more ‘Conscious Consumption’ interviews in the coming weeks!

Conscious Consumption

Conscious Consumption

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