How Inova, Dignity and Kaiser advance healthcare sustainability

Published July 01, 2014
How Inova, Dignity and Kaiser advance healthcare sustainability

In early June, BrownFlynn presented at the annual CleanMed conference, the health care industry’s largest conference for professionals on the leading edge of sustainability within the industry. The session, which focused on reporting as a management tool, was conducted along with VHA(which provided a unique supplier perspective),SASB (which presented its work on the identifying of the most material issues for the industry) andBrownFlynn (which outlined the larger context of sustainability and value of measuring, managing and reporting on sustainability performance).

The packed room represented health care professionals at every stage of the reporting process and from every part of the industry’s value chain. The panel spoke about the business case for reporting and the many tools available to help define materiality, manage sustainability issues and effectively communicate performance to a range of stakeholders. The interactive session also involved several industry professionals from the audience who shared their stories of navigating sustainability and the reporting process, as well as several other important issues such as active engagement with suppliers.

One example in particular was Inova Health System. It was the top-ranked hospital (Inova Fairfax Hospital) in the Washington, D.C., area in 12 specialties (including gynecology and neonatology) for two straight years, according to U.S. News & World Report. Inova has been reporting since 2010, and recently went through a rigorous materiality assessment that resulted in its soon-to-be published GRI G4 sustainability report.

“Inova has been committed to following GRI’s reporting process for several years, with a goal of promoting transparency in reporting within the health care industry," said Carolyn Billetdeaux, sustainability associate at Inova Health System. "In terms of report content and the stakeholder engagement process, you really can see how this year’s G4 report differs from those of previous years." Billetdeaux added that materiality assessments have helped turn Inova's annual reporting process into ongoing dialogue with its stakeholders, and the outcomes of that process allowed it to maximize the relevance of the information shared and adjust its broader strategy.Hospital ventilation equipment. Credit: Alexander Tihonov

Inova Health System is also a founding sponsor of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), a national campaign that aims to implement a new approach to improving environmental health and sustainability across the health care sector. HHI is part of a larger industry-wide movement that includes Health Care Without HarmPractice Greenhealth and the Center for Health Design. HHI comprises 12 of the largest, most influential health systems in the nation. Overall, more than 500 hospitals are involved and represent $20 billion in health care purchasing dollars. This group includes well-known institutions such as Dignity HealthKaiser Permanente and Cleveland Clinic, health systems that are making a big impact on sustainability in the sector.

Dignity Health (formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West) was not only the first to produce a GRI report in the industry, but also actively exercised its shareholder influence to engage suppliers on particularly environmental and social issues of greatest significance to Dignity and its key stakeholders (patients, patient families, employees and the local community). Sustainability issues of significance to Dignity include the link between poverty and poor health, access to prescription drugs for the uninsured or underinsured, workplace diversity and supplier product responsibility. In fact, the shareholder advocacy team set a precedent when it used a shareholder resolution to engage a key supplier on the issue of carcinogens in medical supplies and equipment. 

“Advancing sustainability initiatives in our own operations and in our supply chain is integral to our mission of promoting the broader health of the communities we serve and the planet we share," said Sister Susan Vickers, vice president of community health for Dignity Health. "We consistently raise issues of concern with our vendors and engage them in identifying more environmentally preferable products and services.”

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