Work · Sustainability Practitioners

Dr Jeremy Watson: Journey to Net Zero

Dr Jeremy Watson BVSc (Hons) MANZCVS (SA Surgery), small animal vet at Brimbank Veterinary Clinic in Melbourne and member of Vets For Climate Action in Australia. Dr Watson has recently co-published the paper ‘The path to net zero carbon emissions for veterinary practice’ after Brimbank Veterinary Clinic became the first veterinary clinic in Australia to be certified carbon neutral on the Australian Climate Active Register. Here we meet Jeremy to find out more about his sustainability journey.

Vet Sustain

Dr Watson has long been interested in sustainability and climate change. In 2011 he was involved with the redesign and rebuilding of his practice premises, Brimbank Veterinary Clinic. Using an architect who specialised in sustainable building design the new premises was created with sustainability at its core, remaining cool in summer and warm in winter, maximising natural light, replacing all gas appliances with electric, including rooftop solar panels which put the building in positive energy generation, and installing LED lighting throughout. As a director of the practice, Dr Watson has had the autonomy to champion sustainability and encourage a sustainable culture within the practice workplace. Alongside his practice role, Jeremy also volunteers for Vets for Climate Action and has been improving his knowledge and understanding of sustainability through participation in short courses from the Cambridge University institute for Sustainability Leadership.

Dr Watson’s ‘path to net zero’ research paper came about as the end-product of ‘Business and Climate Change: Towards Net Zero Emissions’ short course. To complete the final module, Dr Watson collaborated with other veterinary professionals to create a 5-step plan outlined in Figure 1 to include the following:

1: Aligning business culture and strategy, where climate-related goals are embedded within the workplace culture, aligned to the business strategy and staff are educated in both the principles of climate science and importance of emission reduction.

2: Set targets based on scientific evidence, to include short-term achievable targets which feed into a longer-term net zero by 2050 goal.

3: Measure the practice carbon footprint through defining and quantifying all business activities. This can be done using tools such as the Vet Sustain Carbon Calculator Tool.

4: Report findings and progress to internal management, the veterinary team and to clients and the public.

5: Reduce emissions. Once emission sources have been defined, emission reduction strategies can be implemented.

Diagram of a carbon dioxide cycle Description automatically generated

Figure 1: The path to net zero emissions, Watson et al (2023).

This 5-step plan forms a continuous cycle of improvement embedding advocacy and collaboration at each stage. Dr Watson explains that the first step of the cycle is by far the most important;

‘if we are to enable sustainable change within the veterinary profession, we need to build a business case, highlighting the benefit that investment in net zero will bring to attracting staff, driving client value and tackling climate change. In turn, this will go far to engage managers in prioritising sustainability initiatives. Setting a practice culture for sustainability is really no different to setting a culture for excellent standards of care, or the prioritisation of animal health and welfare. Sustainability can be built into the core business model as a fundamental part of the business culture, embedded within the vision, mission and values of the practice’.

As a practice partner, Dr Watson had great influence in bringing sustainability to the forefront of Brimbank’s business agenda. However, he explains that it is also possible for any member of the veterinary team to encourage a sustainable culture provided that it comes with a clear business case to get buy-in from those holding the purse strings. This business case may include sustainability initiatives which directly reduce costs or may involve bigger picture initiatives such as championing the health and welfare of staff which will show longer term financial reward through staff retention and continuity. Knowing where to start can often be the most difficult hurdle, however there is support out there such as the Vet Sustain Greener Veterinary Practice Checklist and Greener Veterinary Practice course (launching this spring) and the Vets for Climate Action Climate Care Program.

Veterinary professionals have a wide sphere of influence and therefore can make great strides in influencing others to encourage sustainable change. As such we have the potential to use our connection to the animal owning members of the public to drive political policies focused on sustainability and net zero. Dr Watson and his co-authors hope that the ‘path to net zero’ paper will make a meaningful contribution to the profession in recognition that we have until the end of the decade to instigate impactful change and is a tangible way in which he could use his own sphere of influence as a trusted veterinary surgeon. You can download and read the full paper here:

You can find out more about Vet Sustains Carbon Calculator Tool here:


Watson, J.A., Klupiec, C., Bindloss, J. and Morin, M. (2023) The path to Net Zero carbon emissions for veterinary practice. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 10