Sustainability in Dentistry – Building a Green Team

Sustainability in Dentistry – Building a Green Team

The more you do, the more you get paid, set the direction, press the right button, measure, monitor and repeat. That may have once been the accepted, if not necessarily the most effective way of getting the best out of a team, but it simply won’t do anymore. You cannot innovate and build the environmental sustainability of your dental practice by using outdated management techniques, and the public are too wary of businesses that dress up their faux socioeconomic credentials in order to gain something personally.

This is because what people want from coming to work continues to evolve and with the same inevitability that Generation Alpha will follow Generation Z into your dental practice, all wanting something slightly different from you, it’s unlikely that any single grand gesture, team meeting or laminated mission statement on the kitchen noticeboard is going to give them what they want. Nope, I am afraid it just isn’t that simple, because the people who are most likely to put themselves forward when it comes to anything to do with ‘green dentistry’, are not the same as you or me.

There is no single answer to how you go about this, but having kick started a few sustainability projects at dental practices myself, I have learned from my mistakes and now know that inclusivity and collaboration are key, that is if you want to attract and retain the right people on any innovative project other than the ones you prefer to do all by yourself.

The latest research* confirms this too, that more people trust businesses to lead innovation than they do governments, which means that your team (and your patients too) do not want you to stay silent on issues that you have an obligation to address. We all have an obligation to do something about our environmental impact, and it’s only a matter of time before that obligation becomes regulatory in dentistry (we already have the early signs of the CQC asking to see some form of environmental policy) which means it’s time to make a start. There aren’t really any rules yet either, it’s an emerging science where our peers are as likely as anybody else to have the answers.

So we now have a wonderful virtuous circle where finding innovative ways to address a problem that we have an obligation to fix, allows our teams to grow together and give people what they want. So where do you start?

The great news is that you don’t need to try and motivate people with blunderbuss presentations about values and all being in this together, because the right people already have the motivation. What you need to do as a leader is agree the outcome and get really clear about the intention and then be vulnerable enough as leader to let go and let your team tell you what sustainability needs to look like in your dental practice. They may need some initial help with this, such as clarifying that this is not just about reducing single use plastic and turning the lights off.

There are plenty of people and resources within dentistry too such as Davinder Raju and his green dentistry advocacy and here are a few of the ways that will help you bring your team together around the environmental sustainability of your practice:

1. Search for ideas. There will be good ideas amongst the rubbish ones, so be careful not to label them otherwise you risk diluting creativity and fresh thinking.

2. Language matters. Avoid ‘I agree with you but’ because it closes down the conversation. Instead, look for what is valid in any idea and then build on it. ‘What I like about that idea is….and we can build upon it with this…?”

3. Celebrate success. Your team may not get it right first time and therefore it is important to recognise any progress as a team until you do get it right. Small increments can soon add up to make significant gains.

4. Be vulnerable. Inclusive and collaborative projects don’t exist if the team is grounded in one person thinking they know best, particularly if that one person is you. Remind yourself and your team that there is a reason why you are working on this together.

5. Stay curious in order to hear the unspoken. Different people process ideas and come up with new ones in different ways. Jump at the first answer and it could be the obvious and wrong answer.


Rose & Co. have been building better dental business with a simple and proven philosophy since 2009, where engaged teams don’t need to ask what to do and patients are never sold to. They do this through coaching and training as well as designing and promoting dental brands.

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