Health Facilities Management

August 2012

By Greg May, CHESP

While sustainability is no longer considered a new concept, it certainly remains an emerging growth sector, especially within the health care environment.

Ten or more years ago, the term sustainability was sparingly addressed within health care organizations. There were very few part-time, let alone full-time, sustainability managers. Today, however, sustainability is discussed routinely in health care facilities, and is breaking free from its relegation to “other duties as assigned.” Sustainability has grown to be a relevant, challenging health care pursuit that is environmen­tally sound and also can be financially rewarding.

…Defining sustainability is crucial to successfully building a program. Because sustainability is such a widely used term and is described in so many ways, it leads to some confusion. Primarily, though, most people look at sustainability as the long-term responsibility and maintenance of our planet’s environmental, economic and social elements.

In health care settings, this is viewed and measured by the stewardship of environmental and financial resources as well as measuring long-term environmental impact (i.e., carbon footprint, sustainable food and energy, water use and waste reduction mandates). In many states, there are existing or looming regulatory requirements addressing these issues, further defining the scope of sustainability.

To successfully acquire resources and establish an effective program, recruiting C-suite leadership support and establishing a return on investment strategy will support sustainability efforts. Aligning the regulatory, environmental, community, marketing and financial benefits will go far in attaining senior leadership support.

The triple bottom-line model of “people, planet and profit” provides a basis for defining relevance and value for sustainability programs. Utilization of this unique paradigm has driven many significant progressions in sustainability. Simply put, the model addresses the needed balance and consideration of social equity (people), environmental (planet) and economic (profit) impacts. In alignment with health system and community values, it provides a road map for uniquely designed sustainability programs…

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