Sustainability in its truest sense is much more than just being about the environment. It is also about the sustainability of professions and individual companies. A truly sustainable company has good team retention and the individuals in the team flourish because of the positive environment of the team.
The senior management’s role in a business is to set the culture and strategy and be the encourager and enthusiast in the business. It’s to help the wider team to decide what the values to live by are.
In the narrower sense, of course, we understand it as how businesses can help the environment. OneHealth is a current concept that is creating waves in the veterinary and medical world and suggests how all health must be viewed holistically. Health in mind and body and including the animals in our world and the environment all add up to give a sum greater than its parts
There is increasing evidence that access to nature is good for physical and mental health. Research has shown that people experiencing stress can use green and blue spaces to improve their well-being through walking and exercise.
In a recent webinar at The Webinar Vet’s 10th annual virtual congress, Dr. Catriona Mellor, a psychiatrist, introduced the concept of solastalgia which can be defined as a form of emotional or existential distress caused by negative environmental change or worrying about what may happen in the future to our planet.
When employees can see that their company cares about the planet and is making positive steps to improve local and international areas then this will help them realise that improving our planet is still possible if enough people, individually and corporately, make an effort. It takes the employee in the opposite direction to solastalgia. When companies have clear targets for becoming carbon neutral or being accredited by Investors in the Environment or the Carbon Trust, employees feel that the business exists for more than just making a profit but to help all stakeholders including themselves and the environment.
Planting wildflowers at the workplace on waste pieces of ground or where more traditional gardening has been previously will encourage wildlife like butterflies and bees. Preparing this area and seeing the beautiful flowers growing, gives people a sense of achievement and also helps to slow them down when they want to study the flowers and animals that thrive there.
The benefits of appreciating nature have become so well recognised that GPs have begun green and blue prescribing under the banner of social prescribing.
A recent article in the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust’s magazine, Waterlife discussed five ways to well-being in nature:
- Connecting with nature and connecting with other people whilst in nature to develop our social relationships. This can also include getting to you’re your colleagues better whilst working on nature projects as part of work.
- Regular activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety. Even gentle exercise will exercise the mind as well.
- Being aware of what is in the environment around you and living in the moment will also enhance well-being. I remember being in the centre of Liverpool and hearing a buzzard calling high in the sky. It lifted my soul.
- Learning about the wildlife in the business’ wildflower meadow, stimulates the mind and can lead to feelings of pride in newfound knowledge and improve self-esteem.
- Being involved in helping the company achieve its sustainability goals and helping others makes people feel happier.
In the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s spring 2022 magazine, Lapwing, it was noted that green and blue social prescribing to a group of people suffering from loneliness, depression and anxiety delivered £6.88 of value to participants and the wider society for every £1 spent. There are many of these schemes springing up in North West England. As a vet, I’m a big believer in preventative medicine. Spending time in nature as part of a company’s sustainability activities or as an individual will protect the person from beginning to feel depressed or anxious.
When I am feeling stressed or sad, I often jump on my bike and cycle along the River Mersey amongst the dunes of Waterloo and Hightown. I enjoy the sights and sounds of the sea and the beautiful plants and animals that live at the coast as well as exercising and keeping myself fit. I can recommend it!