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Sustainable Healthcare: A Perfect Match

Sustainability efforts in manufacturing, higher education, governments and retail have been a long time focus and have made great strides. Although these efforts vary in scope and benefits depending on the industry, when it comes to healthcare and hospitals the advantages are especially clear. Simply put, what is good for the planet is good for the patient.Budget constraints and research linking environmental factors to human health has turned the spotlight on the healthcare industry’s role in reducing the environmental impact of their operations. To assess the benefits of sustainability in healthcare we can refer to the basic sustainability model People, Planet, and Profit.

People: Patients, Staff and Community

There are many foundational business theories that say that an organization’s product or service is only as good as its employees. Many times, organizations forget about this and shift to the quantity-over-quality mindset. In healthcare, taking care of employees is an absolute necessity. Having strong employee programs can fuel the recruiting mechanisms, attract top-talent and committed individuals with determination. Large organizations today have employee wellness programs and healthcare is no different as everyone is considered a patient that needs to be cared for. Implementing some of the sustainability strategies addressed in the Planet and Profit sections can have significant impacts on a workforce. Engagement at every level with these initiatives is crucial from onsite green teams, healing gardens, and community service events. Gardening is hot topic for schools and children but it should also be considered for hospital staff and patients as healing gardens provide therapeutic care and increased level of comfort for the patient experience. From a healthcare organization perspective philanthropic efforts are always at the forefront from seeking financial support from community partners or in turn providing support to those partners and community residents by the form of affordable quality care. Partner with community partners and leverage the current community involvement activities to advance the sustainability message and culture. Management Tip: Remember that happy employees make happy patients and happy patients make a strong and resilient community to foster development and growth.

Planet: Waste and Toxins

Where would we be if hospitals and cancer centers led the charge in eliminating chemicals linked to cancer? For one, people would be healthier and two, the air we breathe and water we drink would remain high quality. As an industry, the power of purchasing and procurement decisions is incredible and the markets that supply the industry have unfortunately not been following suit as they are with other industries like retail and industrial. According to the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, “De-toxing the products we buy and reducing toxic chemical exposures that are contributing to cancer rates of one in two men and one in three women and learning disabilities affecting one in six American children.” Eco Tip: Hospitals are huge contributors to waste and especially hazardous waste, so be sure that those are being managed as efficiently as possible.

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