The act of keeping a veterinary clinic stocked with the right amount of appropriate supplies is a significant task! In addition to the medical specific items and equipment, clinics purchase and consume a lot of products that are common to other homes and offices. For most of these items there are several options available for buyers to choose from, affording one the opportunity to select sustainable choices.
Environmentally and Socially Responsible Purchasing (ESRP): The purchase of products and services that minimize negative impacts on society and the environment when compared to other products and services that serve the same purpose.
It can feel intimidating, or overwhelming, to identify the most relevant and trustworthy third-party certifications or evaluate sustainability product claims. Thankfully however, when it comes to non-medical supplies there are many available resources. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency has an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program (EPP) which ‘helps federal agencies procure greener products and services and harness federal purchasing power to green markets.’ Their work has five guiding principles:
- Environment + Price + Performance = EPP: Include environmental considerations as part of the normal purchasing process.
- Pollution Prevention: Emphasize pollution prevention as part of the purchasing process.
- Life Cycle Perspective/Multiple Attributes: Examine multiple environmental attributes throughout the product and service’s life cycle.
- Comparison of Environmental Impacts: Compare environmental impacts when selecting products and services.
- Environmental Performance Information: Collect accurate and meaningful environmental information about environmental performance of products and services.
Beware of Greenwashing
Greenwashing is the practice of presenting misleading information and advertising to portray environmental attributes or responsibility desired by consumers that may not accurately or fully portray product or company practice. It can be a barrier and frustration to those wishing to conduct ERSP. Greenwashing was identified as a practice as early as the 1960s and was first addressed in 1989 by state attorney generals as an issue the federal government needed to address1. This lead to the creation of the “Green Guide”, first published in 1992, then republished in 2012. Additionally, numerous NGOs, publish online guides to help expose this issue. Government regulation on this is still limited, and not well enforced2. No specific guidance or resource exists for veterinary medicine but, because greenwashing can happen with any product, company, or sector, we seek to raise awareness within our profession as green-marketing flourishes.
Path Forward for Veterinary Clinics
Procurement policies for businesses are becoming increasingly more common. There are a number of human hospital, supply-chain specific resources, such as those through the Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals, however we are not aware of similar resources for veterinary clinics. The development of company specific guidelines provides an opportunity for employees to discuss their values, priorities and goals while helping to simplify the procurement process. The objective of this section is to provide information that can be used to inform procurement choices that prioritize the safety and health of people, animals and the environment.
- Jones E. Rethinking greenwashing: Corporate discourse, unethical Practice, and the unmet potential of ethical consumerism. Sociological Perspectives 62(5), 728-754 (2019).
- Vieira, de F. N. S., Falcão, S. M. F., Bezerra, R. A. R. & Luz, S. G. R. da. Concepts and forms of greenwashing: a systematic review. Environ. Sci. Eur. 32, (2020).