Embracing digital technology for the benefit of the planet

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Anthony Chadwick, the CEO of Alpha Vet International, has contributed this article for the benefit of iiE readers. Anthony set up The Webinar Vet in 2010, and it is the largest online provider of veterinary CPD in Europe.  Anthony shares with us his thoughts about how changing work practices to embrace digital technology can benefit the earth.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, quite rightly, shaken people to their core. The fear of losing loved ones, along with the potential destruction of many people’s livelihoods, has left us all in a frightening place, and yet, somehow within all the chaos and crisis, are we receiving a message from the earth that our current systems and life choices are not sustainable?

I have been talking for several years to my own community, the veterinary profession, about the need for all businesses to consider themselves as digital organisations. Recently, I was speaking to one large veterinary company that was unable to get its telephone team working from home because of an antiquated telecom system. This company is a billion dollar company!

I sent my team home a couple of weeks before the lockdown happened to get themselves fully ready for what I expected was to come. Some team members were quicker than others to adapt, but our telecom, CRM and website are all cloud-based and this made the change very smooth. During this time, we’ve seen some telecom companies demonstrate that they are not truly digital companies. Hopefully, lessons will be learnt as we begin to return to normal.

As the crisis has developed, online meetings using Zoom have increased 25 fold. In an emergency, people can adapt quickly. We have been using Zoom for several years to help our community of over 50,000 veterinary professionals stay up to date with developments in the veterinary world. Instead of having to travel for CPD, it is instead delivered to the vet or nurse at home or work – saving time, money and resources. We believe we have saved many millions of travel miles since we set up the company 10 years ago. This sits very well with a committed environmentalist like me. Of course, this has accelerated since the coronavirus crisis began. Companies and associations that were holding physical meetings have asked us to help them bring their meetings online, including turning the World Veterinary Association’s Congress, due to take place in Auckland, into a three week online festival.

The net result of all this is that pollution levels are going down and more and more people need to think digitally. Can a business meeting happen on Zoom rather than everyone travel to London? Does productivity, in fact, increase?

Whilst the devastation of the current pandemic is immeasurable, numerous people are finding positivity in the current situation. One silver lining of the crisis is that the world is being allowed to heal. Nitrogen dioxide levels dropped in London to the extent that the computers that run the nitrogen monitoring system thought the monitors had broken! For me, the reduction in pollution means that on my daily walk along a local beach in North Liverpool I can see Anglesey for the first time since I moved here 13 years ago.

In every crisis there are problems and solutions. Some people focus on problems, others on solutions. The present crisis offers the sustainability community a once in a lifetime opportunity to encourage all companies and people to think in a more holistic way. This, of course, starts with us. How do we run our companies to be even more sustainable?

Whilst so many sectors lag behind in embracing digital technology for the benefit of the planet and improved productivity, there is an opportunity for individuals in those sectors to take a leadership role and show others in the sector how it can be done. I hope that many of you will take up that call!

Anthony Chadwick is the CEO of Alpha Vet International and is a veterinary dermatologist. Anthony set up a practice in Liverpool in 1997 which he eventually sold in 2011 so that he could concentrate on The Webinar Vet, which he started in January 2010. The Webinar Vet is the largest online provider of veterinary CPD in Europe and is a past winner of the FSB’s NW online business of the year and The Regional Business Awards’ Knowledge Business of the year. Anthony is also a veterinary futurist and is fascinated about new technology in the veterinary profession. At a futurist conference in 2016, he heard about the hololens and immediately set about developing Sheba, the holographic GSD which he demonstrated at that year’s London Vet Show.