In this interview, we talk to Professor Nicola West, EFP secretary general.

It all started at a strategy meeting in Brussels, back in 2019. “It” being the EFP’s commitment to take sustainability seriously, to make it part of the culture encouraging support from member societies with direct and indirect learning.

“We recognised a sustainable approach is often lacking in the dental community,” says Prof.West, “and as we are an oral health organisation we are championing sustainability across dentistry as a whole.” Sharon Legendre, head of Operations at the EFP, then wrote a manifesto and about 10 of the 37 members showed a huge interest with a great take up at the time.

“We would like to integrate sustainability across everything we do,” enthuses Prof. West, who is convinced that “it is not about doing things cheaply, it is about value, and trying to make our planet last longer. We are not experts in this field, however we are learning the way, going the way and showing the way!”

This all sounds lovely, however what does this all ACTUALLY mean in practical terms?  What is the EFP doing to encourage a long lasting journey into sustainability?

The EFP offices themselves are now almost 100% paper free, and EuroPerio10, in Copenhagen will be too. Meetings are mainly online, though of course there is still a huge need for people to get together face to face, but not all the time and only “where appropriate.”

Plans for EuroPerio10 are also ambitious. The keynote speaker is the impressive Katherine Richardson, who was chair of the Danish Commission on Climate Change Policy, and is a professor in biological oceanography at the University of Copenhagen and leader of the Sustainability Science Centre. That should be some talk!

The EFP is also doing its bit to help Copenhagen become the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025, by offering a free public transport ticket in the city to all delegates as part of their registration. The food at EuroPerio10 will be sourced and provided as locally as possible. 

How do you keep the momentum going though? “We need champions to drive it, set the idea on fire and make it work. We have taken time to look inward as well as reflect outwardly. Now it is time to look ahead and walk the walk,” says Prof. West. She is evidently very passionate about sustainability- however understands that the EFP needs to bring everyone with them on this journey which can take time.

“We need to help people understand the common goals and show that we are committed, engendering a strong sense of belonging, constantly reassessing, and improving our process and practices. The key is determination and hard work with an optimistic attitude. In everything we do, we need to think about sustainability in the overall plan,” she adds.

Even this article that you are reading is part of spreading awareness. There is a move to take more education online, and for example have a sustainability accreditation integrated into the dental postgraduate programme. As Prof. West acknowledges, “Most universities now have sustainability at the forefront.”

All 37 global EFP member societies should look to the EFP to help “change mindsets”, with each society having a champion, with those champions forming a committee. The EFP can be a hub for anything from sustainable dentistry, research, certification, governance, transparency, and ethics.

The EFP secretary general is adamant thata sustainable approach will be taken whenever possible with regard to all strategic objectives as documented in our strategic plan (2021-2025). I am delighted that sustainability is being embraced.”

The EFP must be a “go to” place to get advice on how to be better at saving the planet, as well as saving smiles!

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