Is your practice keeping up with the ‘David Attenborough effect’?

Patients are demanding practices start becoming environmentally responsible, Mark Topley says.

I don’t often go food shopping, because in our family we’ve distributed the domestic responsibilities that way.

But when I do, it’s still a surprise to see the absence of carrier bags at the self service checkout.

I now have to ask for one (if I’ve forgotten one of our bizillion ‘bags for life’).

It’s a bit of an inconvenience, and yet I am very happy to do so.

What ever happened to customer convenience being paramount?

The ‘David Attenborough effect’

As we’ve all seen, there’s now something more important than convenience, and that’s the greater good, and in particular the greater good of the planet.

Consumers now carry ‘keepie cups’ for their coffee, when it would be far more convenient not to and use a paper one.

Or carry a refillable water bottle, when it would be far easier to pick up a new plastic one when they were thirsty.

I’ve got friends who take their own containers to the Chinese takeaway so they can avoid the build up of non-recyclable plastic or (worse still) metal dishes in their general waste bin.

Wherever you look, the ‘David Attenborough effect’ is in evidence.

Consumers are starting to choose the planet over convenience.


The same shift is coming to dentistry, and you need to be ready for it.

A friend and dental business coach tells me that he already has clients who are reporting patients turning their noses up at plastic interdental brushes.

The same coach says: ‘What they are really testing are your values, the real conscience of your dental business and it’s worth being prepared.

‘Consumers are going out of their way to spend their money with businesses that are like them and to that extent nothing has changed.

‘The forward thinking business is not ignoring them.’

Business coach Chris Barrow recognises the same trend: ‘Nowadays, when patients look for quality, they take into consideration more than the simple offer of clinical excellence and customer service.

‘They are interested in your core values.’

But how hard is it to find time to think about environmental responsibility when there’s enough going on already to just run the practice day to day?

How do you know what you need to do to be responsible, and that you’re doing it right?

Responding to demand

The environmental responsibility of a business falls into a bigger topic – corporate social responsibility and its three pillars of people, environment, community.

As you can see, it’s not ‘yet another something’ that you need to do, but rather something that is intertwined with many aspects of the business – HR, team engagement, motivation, marketing, reputation management, leadership development…I could go on!

For the past 18 months I’ve worked with practices across the UK to help them think about what CSR means for them, and to create a plan that sits within the business to cover the bases of CSR and add value to the practice.

From this work with clients it became clear that some guidance and a standard was needed.

Something that would help practices understand what they needed to do to be responsible.

And those standards are now free to access at

There’s also a survey currently running at on CSR in dentistry and you can take part here.

Once the results are in, I’ll be writing a series of articles on CSR in Dentistry magazine covering the people, environment and community aspects of this increasingly important topic.

Times are changing.

Patients are demanding that we’re a socially and environmentally responsible sector.

Smart businesses are responding already, and you can be one of them.

Read more from Mark Topley:

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