Case Study: Davies Veterinary Specialists, Hitchin
"In 2018, Davies became the first veterinary practice in the UK to achieve the iiE’s Silver accreditation, going on to achieve Green accreditation in 2019."
Davies Veterinary Specialists is one of the largest and most diverse small animal specialists in Europe, employing over 190 people, including over 60 veterinary nurses, 50 veterinary clinicians and a large Client Care Team. Our focus is to provide outstanding patient care; a mission we have been committed to for over 20 years. With fiscal discipline and realistic ambition for future growth, we hope to be doing so for many years to come. However, Davies are aware that futureproofing in a modern world means more than financial security.
Healthcare can be a high environmental impact industry with disposable, single use products and packaging contributing to growing waste issues, volatile anaesthetic agents acting as potent greenhouse gases and environmental impacts from production and disposal of medications.
"The global and local issues arising from climate change compelled Davies to take their first steps towards sustainability."
Davies has been exploring how to increasingly improve their environmental credentials since 2017 and has succeeded in reducing their carbon footprint (kgCO2 equivalent) by 30% from 2018 – 2019 across, waste, electricity, gas, oil, fleet diesel, water and anaesthetic agents.
How the Investors in the Environment accreditation helped…
A group of enthusiastic, sustainability-minded colleagues from clinical, nursing, maintenance, client care and patient care assistant teams formed the Green Group. They realised that they needed support and a structured plan to achieve their sustainability goals. After researching a number of options, they selected Investors in the Environment (iiE) for its supported, staged approach to introducing sustainable practices, throughout all aspects of the business. With the support of their allocated advisor and in line with rigorous criteria they created an environmental management system. Their advisor helped examine current practices and set achievable first-year targets.
"We recognised early on that pulling all our initiatives, enthusiasm and ideas together was challenging. We needed a focus and iiE offered a framework to follow and help us to systematically categorise all our efforts. Our intention is to more than just improve our own sustainability; we want to help other practices navigate the steps which can be taken to improve both environmental and social sustainability in their own practice."
Whilst every veterinary practice is slightly different, the majority of vets are able to set first year goals of measuring resource use, improving recycling, reducing waste and engaging colleagues. These measures can reduce the practice's carbon footprint and running costs just by raising awareness of the impacts.
In their first year with iiE, Davies built on previous green initiatives by establishing a comprehensive environmental policy and action plan and submitting these, with relevant evidence, for audit. On the strength of this audit, in 2018, Davies became the first veterinary practice in the UK to achieve the iiE’s Silver accreditation, going on to achieve Green accreditation in 2019.
What were Davies Veterinary Specialists key achievements for attaining accreditation?
Initially, in achieving Silver accreditation, Davies experimented by replacing hard, yellow, plastic bins for pharmaceutical waste with lightweight Bio-bins made from 96% recycled paper. Since these bins are usually disposed of with veterinary waste, this massively reduced the amount of plastic waste as well as the total weight being processed, saving over £1200 in one year. Davies has since however, become the first veterinary practice to work with leading clinical waste company Sharpsmart, innovating change in both industries. Sharpsmart is a global leader in safety and environmentally responsible sharps and clinical waste management; eliminating sharps waste and associated costs by an average of 30% in the first year of use, reducing associated waste CO2 emissions by up to 95%, reducing the amount of single use plastics and clinical waste in the patient environment and providing in-person, bespoke and traceable training to all appropriate staff.
Davies also switched domestic waste contractors to ensure greater general waste and dry, mixed, recycling (DRM) segregation, allowing DRM to be recycled accordingly and general waste to be effectively diverted from landfill to Energy from Waste (EfW) and Refuse Derived Fuel.
- Improved signage throughout the practice to optimise waste streams;
- Sourced alternatives to PVC-containing plastics;
- Use reusable textiles such as warm air blankets, scrubs hats, masks and gowns;
- Reduce single use plastics by issuing staff with reusable coffee cups and water bottles for use with coffee machines and water dispensers, greatly reducing the use of single use, disposable cups.
"These waste measures resulted in a 40% reduction of waste and a 49% reduction in associated kgCO2 equivalent between 2018 – 2019."
Davies introduced lower-flow anaesthesia protocols in January 2019, contributing to an estimated 19,417 kgCO2eq reduction in emissions from anaesthetic gases between 2017-2019 and produced free access oxygen conservation, low flow anaesthesia and understanding capnography resources available via our webpage.
Sustainability Lead Ellie West has also written an article on reducing Anaesthetic gas for environmental benefit, and Sarah Gibson hosted an onsite seminar ‘Improving Anaesthesia; Cutting Carbon Costs’ and Ian Battersby and Ellie West conducted an Out Of Hours ‘Sustainability Special’ for their YouTube channel.
As part of the preparation for their annual iiE audit, Davies record major resources monthly – quarterly; electricity, gas, oil, water, paper to monitor carbon footprint.
"Davies offset 2018 carbon emissions by contributing to the creation of new woodland with Forest carbon, enabling the capture of 217 tonnes of CO2 ."
They have also:
- Reviewed cleaning processes including consideration of steam cleaners;
- Employed new systems for online accounting, payroll, time sheets, holiday requests and HR systems to reduce paper;
- Developed a new theatre app to replace and reduce paper usage in theatre;
- Introduced a sustainable procurement policy to include switches to lower / recycled plastic syringes, aprons made from sugarcane, non-individually wrapped blue roll, FSC / PEFC paper, use of bamboo tooth brushes to clean clippers and silicone rather than plastic scrubbing brushes;
- Developed a sustainable travel plan to include on-site facilities for cyclists and considering lift sharing.
Davies have an LED lightbulb replacement policy and installed three air source heat pumps to replace gas / oil boilers, also saving electricity and money. They have brought in new energy efficient autoclaves, boilers and refrigerators, and created a Green Pack for Davies-owned colleague houses detailing the environmental policy, recycling and energy conservation tips.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Projects
Investors in the Environment also encourage businesses to undertake at least three Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Community projects each year. Davies have found creative and varied ways to engage colleagues and clients:
- Terracycle: colleagues recycle pens, crisp, confectionary and biscuit wrappers, contact lens packets and pet food packaging by collaborating with local Terracyle centres. Colleagues are enthusiastic and engaged with the Terracycle programme and for every donation of waste, cash donations are made to charity.
- Bike maintenance workshops and drop-in sessions are held for colleagues.
- A Davies Library and Davies Seasonal Swap Shop is planned for 2021.
- A Barn Owl box is installed in an unused barn and camera trap installed at a suspected Badger set onsite.
Sustainability Lead Ellie West undertakes many engagement activities, having spoken on sustainability for Liverpool University Vet Students (May 2020), SPVS-VMG congress (January 2020) and event (March 2020). Ellie also created podcasts and articles for Vet Times, Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia with accompanying podcast, BVA, The Vet Record, Equine Veterinary Education, BSAVA Companion, on waste management for In Practice and on sustainable procurement for The Vet Record.