#OTalk – 20th July – Sustainable Occupational Therapy Practice

This week’s chat will be hosted by Ben Whittaker from Occupational Therapy Susnet @OTSusnet, AHP lead at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare @SusHealthcare and a mental health occupational therapist, and Sonia Roschnik, (also tweeting from @OTSusnet) International Climate Policy Director at Healthcare Without Harm @HCWHeurope @HCWHGlobal and a former occupational therapist.   

Sustainable occupational therapy practice means using resources to deliver healthcare today without compromising the health of current or future generations.  The climate emergency is a health emergency, and as a result, addressing climate change has been described as the greatest health opportunity this century.  

The NHS is the largest employer in Britain and responsible for around 4% of our carbon emissions.  The NHS needs to act for the UK to meet its legally binding 2008 Climate Change Act.  Sustainability is written into the NHS constitution and recently, the NHS has made the formal commitment to become net zero by 2040, with the @GreenerNHS programme.  

Sustainability will be integral to the next national AHP strategy.  Many AHPs, including occupational therapists, are professions that utilise sustainable models of care and a shortage of AHPs could be described as a contributing factor to current high carbon care.  

Sustainability is a Master Project for the WFOT.  In 2012, WFOT stated that Occupational therapists need to “re-evaluate practice models and expand clinical reasoning about occupational performance to include sustainable practice.”  In 2018, WFOT published Sustainability Matters which detailed five sustainability guiding principles.  RCOT have stated that these guiding principles need incorporating into UK curricula and cited them in the RCOT professional standards and code of ethics. 

Sustainable Quality Improvement (SusQI) methodology joins carbon reduction to the core aim of providing the best possible healthcare. WFOT’s QUEST strategy includes sustainability as one of the seven quality indicators applicable to all settings for occupational therapy practice.  

In order for occupational therapy practice to be sustainable it needs to address the triple bottom line of social, economic and environmental agendas, which are interdependent.  The examples of social and economic benefits in RCOT’s Improving Lives, Saving Money campaign also reduce carbon and bring environmental benefits.  

Unsustainable human occupations are driving climate change and occupational therapists have a chance to address this outside of traditional healthcare settings. We can work as behaviour change specialists in council sustainability teams or charities by using occupational therapy approaches with a ‘well’ population that want to address sustainable living goals.  For example, by using Green Lifestyle Redesign: https://networks.sustainablehealthcare.org.uk/networks/ot-susnet/creating-sustainable-lifestyle

We look forward to exploring the above areas with others in the OTalk chat, hearing people’s thoughts, ideas and examples of sustainable practice.  

Questions from the WFOT’s Sustainability Guiding Principles: 

Principle 1: Understanding sustainability 

Q1. What skills do you need to learn at this point to help you work more successfully with individuals and communities to help them reflect about sustainability of their actions as they choose and participate in meaningful occupations?

Principle 2: Mitigation of environmental damage due to unsustainable lifestyles

Q2. What could you do as an individual to help reduce the carbon footprint within your practice setting?

Principle 3: Helping service users adapt to the consequences of environmental damage

Q3. How can you help people in the community (individually or in groups) develop skills in and use of their pADLs to advocate for themselves so that they can access resources needed to adapt to the adverse consequences of climate change?

Principle 4: Community sustainability

Q4. What might you include in an education program for small groups in the community about sustainability and its relationship to daily occupational performance?

Principle 5: Developing professional competence

Q5. What kind of educational support do you need in order to become competent in contributing to sustainability in your practice and how should this support be provided?


Whittaker B & Roschnik S (2020) A Greener Future. OTnews, 28(11), 24-27 

World Federation of Occupational Therapists (2012) Position statement on environmental sustainability, sustainable practice within occupational therapy. Forrestfield, Au: WFOT.

World Federation of Occupational Therapists (2018) Sustainability Matters: Guiding Principles for Sustainability in Occupational Therapy Practice, Education and Scholarship.  


CSH Networks (including Occupational Therapy Susnet): https://networks.sustainablehealthcare.org.uk/

Greener NHS: https://www.england.nhs.uk/greenernhs/

Health Care without Harm: https://noharm-europe.org/

Post Chat

Link to Sustainable Occupational Therapy Practice Resource Map

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