I’ve wanted to be a vet since I was eight years old. It’s one of the best jobs in the world. It accommodates my passion for people, the planet and the animals that inhabit it. The veterinary profession is at the forefront of developing a holistic one health approach to some of the big problems that face us. We have a moral obligation to reduce our carbon consumption but we must solve the waste problem and increase biodiversity.
Here I want to deal with our decision to go carbon negative and how other businesses can follow this path. I was at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. The British government held the presidency of the Conference of the Parties 26.
World leaders tried to commit to limiting the increase in temperatures above pre-industrial levels by 1.5 degrees centigrade. Current government commitments are likely to fall short of this target so individuals and businesses must step up to achieve this target.
Working out how much carbon we can emit before exceeding the 1.5 degrees target is difficult because it depends on which earth system model we use. However, most believe we have 8-15 years at present usage before we use up the carbon and go above the temperature limit.
This is why all businesses should begin to limit the amount of carbon they emit. The climate crisis is ultimately an existential threat to the planet but businesses large and small can do something about it!
Easier said than done! How can you go about it?
The first step to becoming carbon neutral or negative is to measure the amount of carbon or greenhouse gases that the business emits.
Greenhouse gas emissions are divided into different scopes depending on how ‘direct’ they are:
Generally scope 3 emissions represent the largest GHG impact. To conduct a full emissions inventory, you’ll need to reduce carbon emissions in all three scopes. A carbon calculator can be used for this but we engaged a company called Eco Offset to help us. However, it is vital that there is buy-in from all areas of the business if this is to be successful. A top-down or bottom-up approach won’t work. Creating a green team from members of the business is a great way of proceeding to the next step of determining how the company can become more energy efficient.
Once the carbon footprint has been calculated, the team can examine areas where carbon reductions are possible. The easiest first step is to move to a green energy provider like GoodEnergy. The energy produced from solar or wind is already carbon-neutral as it is not produced from gas or oil power stations. Energy consumption can be further reduced by placing LED lighting; installing the most energy efficient boiler and insulating your business properties well. Installing air source heat pumps, solar panels and battery packs can be additional ways to reduce energy usage.
Many businesses are moving to electric vehicles for transport. MWI, one of the vet wholesalers, works closely with a leading corporate veterinary business, IVCEvidensia, by reducing the number of product deliveries to the practice and using electric vans when feasible. These measures help reduce mileage and hence greenhouse gases.
We attained our carbon-negative status by offsetting more than the carbon we produced and then using a reputable company to buy carbon credits. There are sharks out there trying to cash in unethically so beware. We support a scheme in the Amazon to prevent deforestation and buying solar stoves for women refugees in Chad so that they don’t need to chop down trees for firewood. Offsetting is controversial - should we spend all our time and efforts working on reducing our consumption or should we mix that with conserving areas of forest? Planting trees is not part of the solution because they will not sequester much carbon for at least a decade. However, planting the right trees in the right places can increase equally important biodiversity.
Many business leaders view the climate crisis in a despairing way, unsure how to start and so doing nothing. We all have a responsibility to do something and taking the first step can often be the most difficult. Changing energy suppliers to renewable sources will have a massive impact. It will also help satisfy the stakeholders in your business who place a premium on ESG.
Can you afford not to start?
Anthony Chadwick is founder and CVO of The Webinar Vet.
Anthony Chadwick BVSc CertVD MRCVS qualified from Liverpool University in 1990 he received his certificate in Veterinary Dermatology in 1995 from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Anthony was involved in first opinion practice and dermatology referrals until 2016.
In 2010 Anthony set up The Webinar Vet, the first online training platform for veterinarians and nurses, in an attempt to make veterinary education more accessible and affordable across the world.
Since that time tens of thousands of veterinarians and nurses have accessed the platform from all over the world. The Webinar Vet’s first virtual conference took place in 2013. During the pandemic, The Webinar Vet helped to take over 40 veterinary meetings and conferences online including WVAC2020 and WCVD9.
How To Go Carbon Negative – An SME Guide To The Process