Environmental sustainability resources for veterinary workplaces sought by delegates

The AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) has asked the Board of Directors (BOD) to consider having the AVMA develop resources for its members that promote environmental sustainability in the veterinary workplace.

Sustainability, or the greening of veterinary practices, was one of two topics discussed during the Veterinary Information Forum (VIF) as part of the HOD’s regular annual session, held July 13-14 in Denver concurrently with AVMA Convention 2023.

The United Nations (UN) World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Specifically, it recognizes that natural resources are finite, and policies and practices that fail to account for these limitations are likely to have serious economic, ecological, and public health consequences further down the road.

Dr. William Sander
Dr. William Sander, alternate delegate for Illinois, spoke on the topic of environmental sustainability in the veterinary profession before the AVMA House of Delegates’ (HOD) at its Veterinary Information Forum on July 13. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

The core pillars of sustainability are economic, environmental, and social—or “profits, planet, and people.” Businesses and governments have increasingly set sustainability goals, including reducing their environmental footprint and conserving natural resources

Washington state delegate Dr. Diana Thomé introduced the topic to the House.

"As veterinarians, our focus is always on the health of our patients,” Dr. Thomé said, “but we can also consider how our patients impact the environment, how the care we provide them impacts the environment, and how the changing ecosystem impacts them. What actions can be taken today to protect the health of animals in the future?"

Dr. Thomé, who also is an at-large representative on the AVMA House Advisory Committee (HAC), cited a study by researchers at Colorado State University showing clients support veterinarian-led sustainability efforts. The study indicates two-thirds of pet owners value knowing their veterinarian was trained in animal impacts on the ecosystem, she said. Additionally, over half of surveyed pet owners were willing to pay more for services at a clinic with a reduced environmental impact.

"While there were demographic differences, the data indicate that our clients find sustainability important and suggest there may be a financial incentive for veterinary professionals to be knowledgeable on the subject," Dr. Thomé said.

Later in the afternoon, members of the reference committee assigned to the topic discussed it. The following day, the reference committee returned with a request that for the BOD consider having AVMA do the following for its members:

  • Develop a best practices list for individual practice owners regarding sustainable efforts and resources for the clinical practice setting.
  • Explore collaboration with other One Health stakeholders on sustainability, including the supply chain.
  • Explore development of educational resources and a sustainable practices certification.
  • Review internal processes and systems with the goal of increasing sustainability within the AVMA.
  • Explore collaboration with academic institutions to increase sustainability efforts in veterinary education.

Prior to delegates approving the recommendation, several stood to commend the AVMA for taking up the issue.

A version of this story appears in the September 2023 print issue of JAVMA