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October 2021 meeting summary

The Environment and Sustainability Working Party (E&SWP) met for the final time on 7 October to wrap up the work it began in January 2021 and to ensure its original Terms of Reference (ToR) had been met.

To meet ToR One, the Working Party was tasked with creating an internal environment and sustainability policy for the RCVS. The Working Party decided that the best route to do this was for the College to sign up to a formal accreditation scheme, this would not only meet its terms, but go beyond that to ensure that the College is consistently working to reduce its environmental impact by setting targets and empowering the staff-led Green Team to lead on sustainability initiatives.

To implement this decision, the College signed up to the environmental accreditation scheme Investors in the Environment (iiE) in June 2021, and the Green Team is working to achieve the Bronze level accreditation. To do this, the Green Team is engaging staff across the College and has created an Environmental Sustainability Policy which was presented to the E&SWP in the October meeting. The policy, which includes initiatives such as 'Green Inductions' for new starters and commitments to implement a sustainable travel policy, was agreed on during the meeting and will be presented to the Advancement of the Professions Committee (APC) for further ratification in November.

As for ToR Two, ‘Creating a profession-facing environment and sustainability policy that can put into action via both regulatory mechanisms and Royal College influence, and to inform the College’s work with the United Kingdom Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC)’ exciting work has begun in this area. Earlier in the year, the E&SWP recommended that the College comission a sustainability expert to undertake a project with the Practice Standards Team to incorporate further sustainability criteria into the Scheme. After a tendering process, sustainability specialists the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare were chosen by the Practice Standards Group (PSG), and an initial workshop with stakeholders took place mid-October to identify what the veterinary profession would like to see out of this project. This work will form part of the profession-facing sustainability work the College is putting into place, which also satisfies the final Working Party ToR: to make recommendations concerning potential new College initiatives, and support for existing complementary projects led by other organisations.

As part of this work, the Working Party also made a recommendation in March 2021 for the College to review its investment portfolio, and a formal investment policy including ethical issues for the College is going to RCVS Council in November 2021 for consideration and approval.

This Working Party has now completed its work, however this is not to say that the College will not continue to focus on this area. During its final meeting Working Party members agreed ways in which the College can champion sustainability across different workstreams in future. The Working Party will also be recommending that the Advancement of the Professions Committee dedicate time at least once per year to discuss the sustainability work at the College and assess what more can be done. Dr Sue Paterson, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Working Party said:

“I know there is a real passion amongst veterinary professionals to work in a sustainable way. I am delighted that the RCVS is showing leadership not only in adopting its own sustainability policies but also in creating a template through the Practice Standard Scheme (PSS) that will provide guidance and resource to vets, vet nurses and practices. The incorporation of sustainability into the PSS will allow RCVS to work with almost 75% of all veterinary practices, but I hope the scheme will also act as a driver for more practices to join, and to benefit from the expertise that the Centre for Sustainable Health Care will be providing. There is still much more to be done and I am looking forward to continuing with this work as the Environment and Sustainability Lead on RCVS Council.”

The RCVS will continue its membership of UKHACC, and hope to take part in their new ‘net-zero surgery’ working group commencing in early 2022.