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A Practical Approach to “GREEN” for Health Care Providers


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Corporate sustainability, or going “green,” has become a high visibility issue for many healthcare organizations. Yet, while many of us already have our own ‘green’ initiatives at home, there has been hesitancy in committing to greening in a formal and dedicated manner in the workplace. Clearly, these initiatives are valuable, and the current political, social, and business climate has created an imperative for organizations to do their part to conserve energy and protect the environment.

There are a number of practical steps that healthcare systems should consider as they take action to “go green” in a more formal way. A key step is to assign a lead for “green” efforts. Creating such a position sends a strong message throughout the organization about commitment to sustainability and provides a focal point for everything from raising awareness of “green” to gathering and disseminating effective sustainability practices.

Involvement of a health system’s supply chain in corporate sustainability is a move that could quickly pay big dividends. Today’s economic conditions mean that any green efforts undertaken must also be fiscally sound. This is an excellent opportunity to involve the supply chain sourcing and procurement function, which can build sustainability into its practices, without compromising fiscal responsibility. One measure could be to establish an environmentally preferable purchasing program (EPP). Often, when total cost of ownership has been taken into account, eco-friendly products and services show themselves to be at least as cost-effective as their alternatives. Another measure would be for the supply chain to work with the group purchasing organizations, many of which have active programs to assist their members in this arena, to grow the organization’s green footprint.

Assigning leaders and involving the supply chain provide a strong foundation for a corporate sustainability program, but successful programs rely on everyday choices made by individuals. This is driven by educating your staff and building support for the effort. Since most people understand the general concept and intent of “greening” programs, education should focus on specifics. Regarding support, champions of sustainability often already exist within the health system. They should be identified and engaged, and their subsequent successes celebrated through internal and external media, in order to build a virtuous cycle of support and involvement for “greening.”

Finally, when moving beyond these initial efforts to larger efforts or efforts with significant up-front costs, research must be done and a business case built. Fortunately, most organizations involved in green are happy to share. As a result, there is much information available through multiple sources and media to help your organization make go/no-go decisions on “greening” projects.

Whether your organization has committed to gradually growing its green footprint or leaping in head first, starting a “greening” program now has become an imperative for any health system.

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