Creating a Culture of Sustainability

By Seema Wadhwa, Director of HHI

We all know that sustainability in health care has financial rewards and creates jobs.  According to a new report issued by the Health Care Research Collaborative called “Creating a Culture of Sustainability:  Leadership, Coordination and Performance Measurement Systems in Healthcare, there are three key drivers to a successful program:  1) there must be an executive champion, or advocate, 2) sustainability values must be reflected in the organization’s mission, vision or values and 3) performance measurement systems must be used to monitor and track sustainability activities.

The paper’s author, Dr. Tonya Boone, found that leadership engagement and incorporation of sustainability as a high-level goal was key to the success of the program, as they secure resources for sustainability activities, advocate for sustainability within and outside of the organization, and remove institutional barriers to sustainability.

Most of the hospitals also developed measurements for their sustainability program, which allowed them to determine cost savings associated with sustainability efforts.   As they found savings in one program, such as waste management, they were more encouraged to implement sustainability into other programs, such as purchasing.  The hospitals also benefitted from setting goals for their sustainability programs, both to focus staff efforts and to provide systematic introduction of the program.

This report confirms that sustainability is a strategic business proposition for the health care sector and positions hospitals as anchors for community and environmental health.

To learn more, download the paper.  Case studies included in the report are from Bon Secours Health System, Providence Health & Services, Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity Health), Cleveland Clinic, Gunderson Lutheran, University of Maryland Medical Center, Spectrum Health and Kaiser Permanente.

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