While the eco-friendly movement is still going strong in consumer products—including within the pet care segment—lately the biggest buzz among the media and consumers alike has been about people-friendly products.
Of course, the natural/eco-friendly product trend has long been closely tied with the idea of socially responsible manufacturing practices, making terms like “fair-trade” household terms for shoppers of high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods. However, as noted in a New York Times article, the recent garment factory collapse in Bengladesh has put a spotlight on the often miserable and downright dangerous working conditions that are far too common in overseas manufacturing facilities. As a result, an increasing number of consumers are casting a suspicious eye at how and where products are being made.
This is nothing new in the pet industry, where the trend toward socially responsible manufacturing has mostly manifested as the “Made in America” movement. Clearly, there is more to favoring American-made products than shunning inhumane conditions for factory workers—economic and product safety issues are two that immediately come to mind—but it is a big component. While I support pet owners’ and retailers’ right to look for “Made in America” on the labels of the products that they purchase, it would be wrong to assume that such a label will guarantee that it is safe and made responsibly. Conversely, the lack of such a label does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong with a particular item.
There are many pet product companies out there that manufacture their products overseas responsibly, and I’m sure there are more than a few unscrupulous companies out there that tout the fact that their products are made domestically. My point is instead of simply judging a product based solely on its country of origin, retailers should be ready and willing to question every supplier about their manufacturing processes and the type of oversight they have over their factories. It’s the only way to ensure that the products on your shelves aren’t just pet friendly, but people friendly too.