Sustainability and Animal Welfare: Merging Priorities

Gabriel Wildgen, Humane Society International/Canada
Katie Altoft, Carbonzero

In 2015, Humane Society International/Canada launched a ground-breaking project in partnership with CarbonZero, a Toronto-based sustainability reporting firm, with the goal of curtailing factory farming by working with corporate partners to reduce animal product use, and to quantify the environmental and animal protection benefits of those reductions. Companies in all sectors are seeking to innovate and improve sustainability and ethical practices in order to attract and retain customers, investors and employees; by measuring and communicating resource use efficiency and sustainability associated with animal product-free meals and improved animal welfare and environmental standards, companies can tap into a growing public inclusion of animal protection in the broader framework of sustainability considerations.

The presentation will demonstrate how corporate partners can be persuaded to reduce their use of animal products, whether in food, textiles, or other purposes, with two key incentives tied to increasing market-driven and governmental pressures for sustainability improvements. First, implementing and measuring animal product reductions will allow companies to improve their public profile through sustainability recognition awards. Second, and perhaps more significantly, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which provides a key framework for corporate sustainability reporting around the world, recently opted to include animal welfare as one of the factors that companies can focus on while improving, assessing and reporting their sustainability activities. This promising new development means that not only would the environmental benefits of animal product reduction, such as improvements in water and air pollution, resource usage, and emissions, be reportable as sustainability improvements, but that the animal welfare benefits in and of themselves can now be factored in as a sustainability goal.

We are still in the early stages of development on this new strategy, but expect to have a pilot project off the ground with at least one corporate partner by early 2016. The presentation will touch on the progress already made, as well as the new opportunities that exist for others in the animal protection field to use this concept to further their campaign goals.

Key Learnings:
1. Why companies care about sustainability reporting and awards
2. How animal protection NGOs can work with companies such as CarbonZero to help corporate partners measure and report reductions in animal product use (with examples from our work with them)
3. How the lessons we’ve learned can apply to other animal protection campaigns


Gabriel Wildgen
Over the five years that Gabriel has been with HSI/Canada, he has led and participated in several animal protection campaigns, including campaigns targeted at Air Canada’s shipment of non-human primates destined for laboratory research, to prohibit cosmetic testing on animals, to end the trade in the products of shark finning, to end the commercial seal slaughter, and to oppose the fur industry. Most recently, he has taken on the challenge of finding and implementing innovative ways to reduce consumption of meat and other animal products in Canada. 

Katie Altoft
Katie Altoft is the Vice President of Advisory Services for Carbonzero, and a Professor of Environmental Management at Niagara College.  Katie has been involved with the environmental industry for over 20 years, working in a variety of roles in government, consulting and not-for profit leadership. Katie has an MBA in Business and Sustainability from the Schulich School of Business.