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Meet Janice Neitzel of Sustainable Solutions Group Inc. in South Loop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janice Neitzel.

Janice, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I opened a boutique consultancy, Business Technology Experts, a number of years ago. We specialized in group facilitation, using this collaborative method to deliver business management and IT services to Chicagoland Fortune 500 companies and growing start-ups. During this time, I began doing volunteer work fostering and adopting out cats and dogs for PAWS Chicago, then in its infancy, and learning about the growing local and humane food landscape created by tri-state farmers bringing their delicious food to the Chicagoland area.

Wanting to have more of an impact, I became a columnist for the local paper, writing on food and farming issues (across the page from Illinois State Treasurer, the late Judy Baar Topinka, who started the paper “back in the day” and still wrote a column.) I led a group called Citizens for Humane and Wholesome Food, bringing speakers to the local library to bring information to light. This was when people were just beginning to hear the word, “organic.”

With the internet now available (the internet was not yet ubiquitous and there were no apps nor smartphones), I became voraciously self-taught, learning all I could about animal agriculture. I especially learned about the issues for which animal advocacy groups campaigned, to understand why. I talked to farmers to get their take on raising poultry and livestock humanely, learning the pros and cons and gaining exposure to the complexities of animal farming.

On a fluke, I ran across an ad for business school that caught my eye…an MBA in Sustainable Management. Oh, the program is in San Francisco. Too bad, I thought… but, it makes sense. SF is the U.S. hub of sustainability. A few weeks later, I took a closer look. One weekend a month…hmmm, I could make that work. So, for ten months a year, for two years, I commuted to the bay area to immerse myself in learning sustainable management.

Having learned that most egg-laying hens live in cages and breeding pigs spend their pregnancies in small crates, I was looking for a way to bring this information to corporate food buyers. On behalf of an animal advocacy group, using a collaborative approach, I began contacting Fortune 500 retailers and restaurant companies to build awareness and ask them to put policies in place to source a percentage of cage-free eggs and crate-free pork.

Supply chain animal welfare is a relatively new issue for food companies. As I had more conversations, it became apparent that more services were needed. I renamed my consultancy to Sustainable Solution Group Inc. and developed the needed services. Our clients are international restaurant chains, food manufacturers and grocery retailers. We have animal welfare Ph.D’s on our team and our primary advisor is Dr. Temple Grandin. We’ve developed a comprehensive Sustainable Sourcing Roadmap approach to build awareness of issues, assess animal welfare in the supply chain, develop sourcing policies, measure and communicate progress while increasing supply chain animal welfare over time.

Mutual trust is the most important element in our client relationships. We specialize in listening to our clients, customizing services to meet their needs and delivering results.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Environmental sustainability and money-saving energy efficiency efforts took root at companies fairly easily. Supply chain animal welfare has taken longer to be recognized as an issue that must be addressed because it does not cut costs. It minimizes risk and builds brand equity, which are not as easily measured. However, as videos of poor conditions appear on social media, food companies are becoming aware of the need to minimize risk and put policies in place to improve animal welfare in the supply chain.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
What We Do:

-We facilitate pragmatic Animal Welfare & Antibiotics Policy Development while being careful to satisfy all stakeholders.

-We offer a Meat, Dairy, & Egg Animal Welfare Sourcing Assessment to measure current state of animal welfare and growth hormones in your supply chain and provide a formal report of recommendations.

-Our Pre-Crisis Planning & Audit Evaluation guides you to understand demands made by customers and animal advocacy groups to minimize the risk of being a target.

-We specialize in Group Facilitation & Executive Coaching. We are not consultants that facilitate. We are experts in Group Facilitation.

-Through Responsible Sourcing Strategic Planning we facilitate a Crawl-Walk-Run approach with actionable steps to earn loyalty to your brand’s value equation. Measured animal welfare criteria, such as cage-free eggs and gestation crate-free pork, need to appear in your sustainable food strategy and in your sustainability reporting.

What were you like growing up?
-Grew up with two parents and five kids in my family. I shared a bedroom with my two sisters.
-I like to know things. I loved school. School is designed for the way I think. I took notes in class and rewrote them to make sure I understood them.
-I am an athlete and learned discipline from a young age. I play year-round sand volleyball with my husband.
-I ask a lot of questions. I like to understand what people think. I am a professional Facilitator and we ask a lot of questions.
-I also like to get things done.
-I love to have fun. I love music and comedy.
-I love to sleep and I love to eat.
-I like things clean and organized.
-I am not an early riser.
-I do not pass up an opportunity.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.SustSolutions.com
  • Phone: 708-926-5569
  • Email: Janice@SustSolutions.com or Info@SustSolutions.com
  • Twitter: @JaniceNeitzel

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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