In such a fierce market for young talent in ANZ, corporate climate action is shifting from a “mission-driven” bonus to a hiring necessity.
Now, it’s easy to greenwash and drop an Instagram post about climate change awareness without doing terribly much about it, or use the term “sustainable” on products without the data to back it up.
So, as an employee, how can you cut through the bullshit and spot tangible climate when evaluating your current or future employer’s commitment to climate goals?
We decided to dive deeper with Gabriel Guedes, Co-Founder and COO/CFO of direct-to-consumer pet food startup Lyka, to get inside the guts of how he’s approached Lyka’s climate consciousness by design to become Australia’s only carbon-negative pet food.
🌱 Building a sustainability-first startup
The brainchild of passionate pupper parent, Anna Podolsky, Lyka was founded after Anna struggled to find healthy food for her pup, Lyka – yes, the company is named after her furry inspiration.
When she was young, Lyka suffered from a number of health issues. Her fur was thinning, and the vet wanted to remove her teeth, this was not how it should be. Interested in learning more about the pet food industry and what was actually in the food we feed our dogs, I began studying each night after work and I was completely shocked by what I discovered.
Anna and I struggled to find the right food for Lyka and, after making the horrifying discovery about the ingredients found in kibble, I started home cooking all her meals. Within weeks, she was a different dog – the change was jaw-dropping. She had more energy, a shinier and softer coat, her poos were less smelly and she was just generally so much happier. Incredibly, even her teeth improved.
Dogs are a huge part of our lives (one of the best parts in my opinion!) and seeing the change in Lyka, I knew that I had to give the same opportunity to all Aussie dogs to help them live their healthiest, happiest, and longest lives. This was how Lyka was born.
Lyka was founded as a pet wellness start-up that helps puppers live their best lives, which goes beyond nutrition. As a long-term pescatarian and outdoors lover, I made keeping our environment pristine and combating climate change part of our mission. This is fundamental for dogs, and their humans, to live to their fullest. Thus, we designed Lyka to be an environmentally friendly alternative from first principles.
For instance, we source as locally and sustainably as possible and lightly cook ingredients at low temperature, so our recipes naturally have a footprint that is 15% smaller than that of kibble on a daily-needs basis.
All meal plans are portion controlled, so there is no wasted food or overeating (40% of dogs are overweight in Australia!), reducing overall consumption.
We have also gone the extra mile to implement further changes to become more sustainable. This has been done by measuring our entire footprint, including that generated by our suppliers while serving Lyka. This allowed us to understand our footprint and progressively reduce it.
We now have solar panels in our industrial kitchen, recycle and repurpose the waste generated by our cooking, and use environmentally-friendly cleaning products, among other initiatives.
To tackle our Scope 3 emissions, those of our suppliers, we source from those that share our vision for a more sustainable future. Some already have benchmark sustainability standards, for instance, our sardines are wild-caught and fished using sonar technology to identify schools and launch targeted nets that avoid dragnets and bycatch. Where they still have opportunities to reduce their environment footprint, we partner with them to find solutions and compromises that can improve it.
For every decision, from procurement to new product launches and equipment purchases, we take the environmental impact into consideration as a formal step.
Aside from tackling carbon emissions, we also reduced the reliance on single-use plastic by purchasing biodegradable gloves, trash bin liners and pallet wraps. We also recycle all the cardboard and metal in our kitchen.
Recently, we decided to formalise our commitment to the future by offsetting our remaining carbon footprint – the part that we cannot currently reduce. We have done this by sponsoring local projects that plant native trees close to existing habitats. This helps Australian ecosystems to recover and expand, while supporting wildlife and improving water quality in local aquifers.
In 2021, Lyka became Australia’s only carbon negative pet food, which is something that we are incredibly proud of, and we hope this also inspires others to think about their carbon footprint.
👀 Where will the next advancements in company sustainability be made?
For Lyka, being carbon negative is important, but progressively improving ‘how we get there’ is fundamental. Offsetting is a good short-term tool, but we aim to reduce the original emissions as much as possible, and we are constantly looking for ways to do this.
After the implementation of our initiatives, we are proud to say that Lyka’s footprint is now mostly (90%!) driven by Scope 3 emissions, or those of our suppliers.
Thus, our next focus is to work with suppliers to change their practices and help them reduce their footprint. This usually means an additional cost, as more sustainable products often lack the scale of more traditional means.
But the benefit is that, when a supplier changes their practices, they can offer a more sustainable product at more competitive prices (due to increased scale) to other companies too, not just Lyka. In turn, this multiplies what we can achieve on our own.
Another initiative for 2022 is to empower our customers even further to make more sustainable choices. By sharing the carbon emissions impact of each meal option, we want to nudge customers to make more sustainable choices of their own accord.
For instance, the carbon emissions of our beef recipe are over 3x higher than our chicken recipes. By having access to transparent data, customers will be able to make more informed choices about what their dogs eat and, hopefully, about their own consumption.
Beyond carbon emissions, we are working on the ever-challenging task of eliminating single-use plastic from our operations which, for any business, is a huge task given how omnipresent they became in our culture. As I mentioned earlier, we have made considerable progress but, due to technology barriers, we are not where we would like to be just yet.
For instance, thermo-formed vacuum packaging is not currently available in completely environmentally friendly form, so we are working with innovative suppliers to develop sustainable options and testing new emerging materials. To achieve our goals, Lyka needs to push the boundaries.
Whilst we have bold plans, Lyka is still a small company in the scheme of things. To have a higher and more significant impact in this battle, we need to inspire our entire ecosystem to act. By inspiring others, from employees and customers, but also suppliers and competitors, Lyka can multiply our impact manyfold.
For instance, if we can be the catalyst to develop and disseminate bio-plastic vacuum packaging in Australia, it could shift a whole industry to eliminate single-use plastic. I believe this multiplying effect should be in the mind of each environmental action smaller companies deploy.
We are extremely proud to be inspiring those around us and showing our customers and competitors what is possible in the pet food industry, as well as the broader consumer goods sector in Australia – watch this space and reach out if we can help on your journey!
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We acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and commit to building a brighter future together. Our team works on the country of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation in Sydney.