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How to be a sustainability champion

11 Nov 2021 | Gudrun Ravetz


Gudrun Ravetz, Director and Chair of Vet Sustain and BVA Past President, calls on all veterinary professionals to sign up to a sustainability pledge at London Vet Show.

How to be a sustainability champion Image

Sustainability is inextricably linked to the work we do every day as veterinary professionals. The health and welfare of the animals we see and treat is both affected by and has an effect on the environment (and the people and other animals sustained by it). So, what is our role in the sustainability journey? For many, this may seem an easy question to answer, but not always. Does “our” mean our role as a professional, a citizen or both? And are these roles mutually exclusive or do they overlap?

As veterinary professionals we are one of the most trusted professional groups and have the knowledge facility and influence to make a positive impact. Arguably this brings with it a responsibility to act positively in a One Health context: to not only use science, evidence-based interventions to enact change but also to educate and agitate for positive change. The RCVS Code of Professional Conduct 6.1 states: “Veterinary surgeons must seek to ensure the protection of public health and animal health and welfare and must consider the impact of their actions on the environment.” Therefore we not only have the privilege to act, but also a duty.

We should combine our collective knowledge of areas such as genetics, nutrition, husbandry, biosecurity, diagnostics, treatments and management together with the ability to use this in a holistic approach to benefit animal health and welfare. Then, using a One Health framework, we can bridge the gap between our knowledge and how we put this into action.

We are privileged in that our professional action can come through many different avenues: as individuals in the way that we engage with animal keepers and owners, through our practices to wider stakeholders and the community, and through professional bodies to achieve political and societal change.

But not only can we act as professionals, but also as active citizens, where we have the freedom to choose how we behave and what we consume to contribute to positive change. Our professional knowledge allows us to guide our choices as active citizens, which can act as a positive example.

Acknowledging that we have the agency, the legitimacy and the avenue to act is important, but how to act can still seem daunting. Practising in a sustainable way is not about comprising our standard or breadth of care but, as with all new things, it needs us to think in different ways and to educate ourselves as to what is possible. 

A good place to start is with the Greener Veterinary Practice Checklist, a resource created by Vet Sustain, in partnership with BVA, BVNA and SPVS, that helps practices to understand what they can do in four key sustainability areas within practice:

  • Practise responsible resource use
  • Be sustainable in your operation
  • Use medicines responsibly
  • Empower the team

As professionals and active citizens, we have much to contribute. By fully deploying our skillset, taking personal responsibility and challenging ourselves professionally and personally we can be champions of sustainability. 

Challenge and change can feel daunting and sometimes uncomfortable, but it can also be empowering and rewarding.  Not doing things alone is a powerful motivator, and the same is true for our actions on sustainability. During the London Vet Show (LVS) we are asking you all to come together and make a sustainability pledge based on the Greener Veterinary Practice Checklist (you can do this virtually if you are not at LVS). If we all pledge together to do at least one thing this could have a real multiplier effect. Make your pledge today and let’s all hold ourselves to account.




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