PRODUCTS & SERVICES Sustainability: Fusing eco-friendly

and ego-friendly efforts How will healthcare organizations rally ‘round the passion for the cause? by Rick Dana Barlow


mbarking on an environmentally friendly product or service initiative doesn’t have to make you see red or

green — emotionally or financially. Then again, many of these projects aren’t exactly black and white either on the emotional or financial spectrum.

Sustainability can represent serious busi- ness. Some connect the word to a touchy- feely, warm-and-fuzzy political movement. Others may link it to some kind of profit maximization scheme based on the belief that environmentally friendly/green prod- ucts cost more for reasons that range from more complex manufacturing or processing to no discernable reason whatsoever, save for sheer opportunity. Either political or financial reasoning may seem accurate on the surface, but technically neither drive momentum. In its purest form, sustainability is an aim to strip out harmful additives and behavioral shortcomings and shortcuts designed to make processes and products more accessible and convenient at the expense of our long-term health. Late this past summer Healthcare Purchas- ing News (HPN) partnered with Greenhealth Exchange (GX) to gauge healthcare supply chain opinions about and actions around sustainability issues and topics. Both orga- nizations surveyed supply chain profession- als, some of whom worked with dedicated internal sustainability experts, and others of whom were GX members.

The tabulated results yielded some curi-

ous findings in terms of cultural philoso- phies as they relate to current practices. Initially and overall, the most glaring result was the tepid response around sus- tainability as a management/operational priority. The GX-HPN survey asked respondents to rank their organization’s focus on sustainability-related activities on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the least focused and 10 being very active. The largest number


of survey respondents planted themselves squarely in the middle at a 5 with the next largest groups hovering in the 6 to 8 range, meaning most either seemed to be average to somewhat actively focused on sustainability-related activities, according to the survey (see Slide 1).

Mary Starr, GX Vice President, Member Services, shed an optimistically positive light on the responses in context.

“It’s difficult for most people to say they aren’t looking at sustainabil- ity, particularly with the [media] featuring climate change research fairly regu-

lenge is to do enough to make a difference. If everyone is ‘average,’ then it would appear there isn’t enough work being done to ad- dress the issues around climate, chemicals and food that will impact, not just those of us working now, but also our children.” The GX-HPN survey highlighted five spe-

cific sustainability areas. They are: Reduc- ing energy consumption, reducing waste production, reducing water consumption, reducing chemicals of concern usage and increasing use of local/regional food. Some weren’t surprised by the results. Mary Crawford, Senior Director, Procure-

Mary Starr

larly and emphasizing the critical point we all are at for making meaningful change to prevent future catastrophes,” Starr indicated, referencing the United Nations report on climate change (http://www. “Therefore, these responses probably reflect the opinion that healthcare organizations are all doing ‘something’ with sustainability. The chal-

ment and Supply Chain, Small Business Liaison Officer and Certified Supplier Diversity Professional at Duke University Health System is but one ex- ample. In fact, she attributes it to customer diversity. “As a member of a uni- versity and health system community, I feel this is an accurate depiction of the current state of initiatives around sustainability in

Mary Crawford

SLIDE 1 — On a scale of 1-10, when considering other healthcare organizations, how focused is your organization on sustainability related activities?

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