Following the alternative protein pioneer Ÿnsect’s insights on biodiversity, Anthony Chadwick, Founder & CVO of The Webinar Vet adds a perspective to the #DodoAccord series that outlines how small businesses can have a big impact and become sustainable. Based in Liverpool, backed by the North West Business Fund and accredited green by Investors in the Environment (iiE), The Webinar Vet is making veterinary education more accessible and affordable.

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Anthony Chadwick, Founder of The Webinar Vet

What The Webinar Vet is doing to protect biodiversity

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for biodiversity?

The rewilding movement has had a very positive view in my opinion. I spent a day at the UK’s Knepp Estate last summer and it reminded me of my time in the African savanna. A couple in Sussex, Charles Burrell and Isabella Tree realised that they were running their dairy farm on unproductive land, sold their milk quota and allowed the land to rewild.

Biodiversity in the Knepp Wildland has increased in the 20 years since that decision and it is showing us another way to steward unproductive land for the good of the planet. The government has followed their lead by introducing payments to farmers who show good stewardship of their land rather than just having high productivity.

“Biodiversity in the Knepp Wildland has increased [since the decision to rewild], showing us another way to steward unproductive land for the good of the planet.”

How should conflicts between economic development and biodiversity be resolved?

Most of the conversations going on in our world today are binary ones - good v bad, Labour v Conservative. Conflicts in the world can be resolved by both sides listening more and speaking less. Often a mediator can help to find the middle ground where agreement can be reached.

I’m hopeful that women and men of goodwill can create a more conciliatory world where everybody’s opinion is listened to and respected. Consensus will then more easily be found.

“Conflicts in the world can be resolved by both sides listening more and speaking less.”

Can offsetting play a significant role in the protection of biodiversity?

I was speaking to an accountant recently from a regional firm and he was saying how the firm plans to go carbon neutral by 2030. In my view, small non-complicated businesses can do this much more quickly. We calculated our carbon last year and offset double that amount to make us carbon negative.

Obviously, some companies that are significant polluters use offsetting as a sop to cover their environmental excesses and there are also some offsetting firms that are not ethical. However, I see it as part of the climate change solution along with reducing carbon output by using renewable energy - switching to more energy-efficient appliances and travelling more by train rather than car.

“Small non-complicated businesses can [go carbon neutral] much more quickly. We calculated our carbon last year and offset double that amount to make us carbon negative.”

Webinar Vet’s advice on biodiversity

Image credit: The Webinar Vet

What advice would you give founders to have a positive impact?

A recent article by Harvard Business Review has recognised a sea change in business away from making profit as the sole reason businesses exist to a more nuanced approach that involves many stakeholders such as suppliers, employees and the environment. Investment companies and banks are now also wanting to see companies with a high ESG rating.

It’s becoming non-negotiable for companies. Rather than being compelled, bigger impact can be achieved if you’re led by a heart for conserving our beautiful planet. In the end, business owners must do it because it feels right otherwise they will be rightly accused of greenwashing.

“[ESG is] becoming non-negotiable for companies. Rather than being compelled, bigger impact can be achieved if you’re led by a heart for conserving our beautiful planet.”

Does biodiversity get lost in conversations about climate change?

I was at COP26 where much of the focus was on reduction in carbon emissions. It can be very easy to silo these discussions and not think about them holistically. If we plant lots of non-native Sitka spruce in regimented lines on agricultural land, we may well help with carbon sequestration in the future but we will almost certainly create a fairly sterile environment for the native fauna.

It’s so important for us to deal with the climate crisis in a holistic way. This makes discussions more complicated but the results are worth the extra effort!

“I was at COP26 where much of the focus was on reduction in carbon emissions. It can be very easy to silo these discussions and not think about them holistically.”

What advice would you give policymakers in the absence of global agreement?

It was so good to see a global consensus being reached at COP26 albeit it didn’t go far enough in some areas. Individual countries can lead. The UK is one of the least wooded and nature-poor countries in the world. Let’s lead by example in the way that countries like Costa Rica have done with their commitment to reafforestation.

Governments can help with behaviour changes. For example, the UK’s favourable taxation on electric cars has caused a surge in sales of these vehicles as well as an understanding that petrol car sales will stop in 2035.

“Let’s lead by example in the way that [individual] countries like Costa Rica have done with their commitment to reafforestation.”

Webinar Vet’s mission and focus on sustainability

How was Webinar Vet founded with a focus on sustainability?

The Webinar Vet was founded in 2010 to provide the world’s vet professionals with easy and affordable access to quality online education so that they can complete their continuing professional development (CPD) requirements at a time that suits them and from the comfort of their own home.

Sustainability and the regeneration of the planet is something that all of us at The Webinar Vet are passionate about. We recently gained carbon-negative certification and are an Investors in the Environment (iiE) green business, its highest accolade – in fact, we offset twice the carbon that we produce and make sure that we support projects that also stimulate local economies and promote community health.

We have implemented a number of sustainability initiatives both through the company’s work and in our local area. The company runs regular webinars about sustainability and is actively encouraging vets around the world to follow suit. And for every new member we gain at The Webinar Vet, we plant two trees. This runs to over 3,500 trees in the last year. We use a green energy supplier and always opt for the most energy-efficient solution when we are selecting equipment and, of course, keep our travel to a minimum. We have also sown a wildflower meadow at the Liverpool Science Park and this area has recently been extended – in fact the team has reported that the act of sowing the wildflowers and seeing the results has been good for mental health too.

We are always searching for new ways to promote sustainability and in June we will be holding our first Veterinary Green Discussion Forum which will bring vets together to explore ways we can be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

“The Webinar Vet runs regular webinars about sustainability and is actively encouraging vets around the world to follow suit. And for every new member we gain, we plant two trees.”

Who are your investors and what’s been the biggest obstacle to your success?

The North West Business Fund and some angels invested in the company in 2015. Before that time, we grew the company by bootstrapping. We are improving our tech and going global in the next 18 months which will require further investment.

The pandemic was a huge challenge. We got people out of the office several weeks before the government enforced shutdown which helped us get set up for remote working. I was very keen not only to keep my team safe but also to be supportive of their mental health during that time of isolation. In 2022, our challenge is encouraging people back into the office.

“The North West Business Fund and some angels invested in the company in 2015… [Now we’re] going global in the next 18 months which will require further investment.”

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