Sustainability Workstream

Identifying practical ways the veterinary profession can drive significant environmental change is a key focus of the Vet Futures’ Sustainability Working Group.

Leading this piece of work is Otago Polytechnic Associate Professor and veterinarian Francesca Brown, who wants to bring the veterinary profession together to start talking about sustainable practice. “We are trying to connect and collaborate with people to share, grow, and develop our understanding of environmental issues, and discuss how we, the veterinary profession, can contribute to the massive change that is needed,” she says.

“The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is pretty damning about the fact that we need to do a lot, quite quickly.”

Francesca has a Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Practice and a Master of Professional Practice (Distinction) in Leadership for Change. She is also a member of Sustainavet, which is made up of New Zealand vets and support staff who have a mission to collaborate on and drive change in our veterinary industry, to encourage sustainable and ultimately regenerative veterinary practice.

Francesca says, one of the things that needs to happen is for us to examine our supply chains when making purchasing decisions and carefully considering the whole lifecycle of a product and the environmental impact - from raw materials, to manufacture, to end of life. This is the concept of product stewardship. “This is just as important as what happens to a product at the end of its life.”

“We don’t have all the solutions, some don’t even exist, but as an industry we can put pressure on our supply chains to tell them we’re not going to accept poor environmental practises anymore,” Francesca says. “We also need to be comfortable that a change we might implement now, because it appears to be the right one, might have a better solution later, and so we will continue modifying our behaviours to the best available solution at the time.”

Another focus of the Vet Futures’ Sustainability working group is to move beyond sustainability to regenerative change. This means moving beyond a net zero impact to having positive impacts – regenerating the planet. The group is also keen to identify research opportunities where gaps are found and drive change through research.

Francesca says, “These discussions are complex and at times they will be confronting. It’s a journey of continuous improvement. We need to collaborate together as a profession, make incremental changes, share the changes we make to support others on the journey.  “Together, the changes will make a big difference.”

If you have a specific interest in sustainability and would like to be considered for this working group, please contact Iain by emailing [email protected]