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Creating a more sustainable future


  Posted by: The Probe      6th June 2019

New head of community impact at Simplyhealth, Sarah Greenaway is leading the way with fresh initiatives aimed at encouraging local engagement and in doing so, creating a more sustainable future for dentistry. The Probe’s editor, Holly Payne, went to find out more…

HP: What first attracted you to work at Simplyhealth?

SG: Simplyhealth is a remarkable organisation – because it doesn’t have shareholders, and was established to fulfil a social purpose, it is perfectly placed to be a successful business that also plays a positive role in society. This social impact business model is at the forefront of innovation in the ethical business sector today, and so it offered me a fantastic opportunity to work in a field I’m passionate about. The bulk of my career has been in marketing type jobs, then about 10 years ago I made the transition to become a brand manager for an ethical brand. The more I worked in that area, the more I learned about the impact that businesses have on communities, and it just became something more and more important and obvious to me – why would you not try to improve society by doing better business? I’ve got a commercial background and I believe in business wholeheartedly. However, I have a personal passion for the environment and the role that business can play in society.

HP: What are your main responsibilities within the organisation?

SG: My role is to build on our community heritage to deliver our business purpose – improving access to healthcare for the many. The £1m+ we invest in charities each year enables our partner organisations to provide the services of healthcare professionals (from dentists to physios and counsellors) to people who desperately need their care and expertise. This helps us to create lasting and meaningful change for disadvantaged communities across the country. This also means looking at projects we currently have in place and seeing how we can make them bigger and better to reach more people. One priority at the moment is Teeth Team. We’ve been supporting them for a number of years and as we’ve been supporting them, they’ve been growing. They’re going to work with some schools in Nottinghamshire and we’re looking at ways we can help them to reach more children. Naturally, we’re also on the lookout for dentists within our network who may be interested in supporting Teeth Team

HP: Besides Teeth Team, what other examples are there of positive change within the community owing to support from Simplyhealth?

SG: One example is a charity called I Can, which is a gym filled with power-assisted equipment for people with mobility issues. The social aspect is just as important for people who go as the physical movement – some people who were suffering from disabilities hadn’t left their house in years. We’re supporting the charity again this year to build an extension to have a proper café, as well as a therapy room, so there can be a physiotherapist and a nutritionist on site. It has a huge positive impact on the lives of people who otherwise might be housebound – offering both physical and mental benefits.

HP: When it comes to sustainability, what developments would you most like to see in how businesses operate?

SG: It might help to share my favourite definition of sustainability here – “meeting the needs of people today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own”. So, in other words, not using everything up, or damaging irreplaceable resources, so that future generations suffer. The world has changed and the public is waking up to environmental impact more than ever before. Business purely for profit is no longer thought to be enough – business is increasingly expected to make a difference to society too which is what we are trying to do at Simplyhealth to help create long term impact through our charitable partnerships. Done right, these projects can drive business growth and make us more successful – because the more successful we are, the more money we have to put back into social impact projects like Teeth Team. It becomes a virtuous circle of doing the community work, having a positive impact and growing business, then having more money to invest in people who can’t afford to access the healthcare professionals they so desperately need.

HP: What role do dentists play in trying to become more sustainable?

SG: Every one of us has a role to play in protecting the environment, from private individual to global conglomerate. We all share this planet and the resources it provides. Dentists as much as any profession have an impact on the environment – from the energy they use in their practice to the plastics and materials they use and dispose of. And, of course, in the wider interpretation of sustainability, dentists have a critical role to play in community health. I would really encourage dentists to start thinking about simple things they can do in their practice, and don’t be intimidated by a need for perfection – it’s better to do one thing than nothing.

HP: If you could share one message…

SG: For me, if I could give a message about sustainability, it would be that everyone needs to do something – nobody is perfect but do what you can, because when people start on a journey, they will carry on the steps. Doing something is always a million times better than nothing. Business can and should play a positive role in society. 

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