Dignity Health’s Leciejewski points to water as a key hurdle: “The challenge is bringing potable water demand down,” she said. “Water is very inexpensive, causing few projects to make economic sense, with most paybacks exceeding 15 to 18 years. The GX-HPN survey found that each of

the five sustainability areas had its own degree of priority, progress and difficulty. Reducing energy topped the priority and progress lists, but reducing waste and conserving water topped the difficulty list (see Slide 4).

Mayo’s Mairose explains that each of

the five sustainability areas pose its own hurdles.

“For chemicals of concern, affordable products that provide equal or improved outcomes and performance is a major challenge,” he said. “There are chemicals of concern that have a significant impact on how products feel and perform in the clinical area. Transitioning can be a chal- lenge. Water Consumption — one of the most critical products for patient care is water in all forms and in all phases of care delivery. An organization can focus on water reduction in areas that are not directly impacted by patient care, e.g., eco-friendly landscaping, etc. However, making a meaningful impact can be chal- lenging. For a large organization to truly leverage locally sourced foods, it can be very disruptive to the supply chain if not performed within the framework of local

sourcing programs offered by food service distributors. Waste reduction is a challenge in an industry where more products are rapidly moving from reusable to dispos- able. It can be hard to discern when the transition to disposable is truly needed for infection prevention and control.” Staples’ Swenson concurs that challenges can vary depending on the area — both geographic and product.

“Growing energy demand and the reli- ability of the grid are challenges in energy as well as high energy rates in some areas of the country,” he noted. “Finding new technologies to assist in reducing energy load and cost that are reliable also takes effort. Internal initiatives to help reduce waste to the landfill, along with the aware-

ness of water consumption and how to educate to reduce water waste can all be challenges. For chemicals of concern, the first challenge is getting transparency into what is in all of the stuff you are bringing into your buildings from the manufacturers and then understanding if there are safer alternatives. We don’t source a ton of food, so hasn’t been a top priority for our organi- zation, but I can see availability of different products and pricing of local/regional and finding the right supplier partners to be challenges.” HPN

Editor’s Note: For more details and information about the survey, contact Greenhealth Exchange by visiting their web site at www.greenhealthex-

SLIDE 4 — Priority vs. Progress vs. Difficulty

Depth of perception, reception

How should Supply Chain be involved in sustainability initiatives? by Rick Dana Barlow


ustainability can be a deeply immer- sive topical area for any healthcare or- ganization and department within it.

Supply Chain’s specific participation and role in sustainability initiatives, whether fully embedded within product decision- making or peripherally inserting sustain- ability language requirements in contract clauses, or marginally endorsing and practicing behavioral changes, differs by facility and leadership personality. Most agree that distance and ignorance

are unacceptable, particularly because Supply Chain functions as the product and service gatekeeper within an organization — or at least it should. A joint survey of healthcare organiza- tions conducted by Greenhealth Exchange (GX) and Healthcare Purchasing News (HPN)

in late summer found that Supply Chain, by and large, should be involved in sustain- ability initiatives (98 percent affirmative response), with many responding that sustainability should be a consideration for Supply Chain with a larger number saying it should be critical to decision-making five years from now.

Curiously, while 98 percent at least rec- ognized Supply Chain should be involved in sustainability initiatives, only 57 percent of survey respondents stated they set sus- tainability goals specific to work in supply chain operations. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents reported that progress on those goals are routinely reported out via meetings, newsletters, electronic dash- boards and other forms of communication, according to the results.


Only 41 percent of survey respondents said that Supply Chain routinely factors sustainability components for products into the decision-making criteria, typically during the bid process, in product reviews and in requests for proposals (RFPs). Unfortunately, progress in implementing sustainability improvements is not really a factor at all in Supply Chain performance measurement as cited by more than 58 percent of survey respondents. Meanwhile, 35 percent of respondents said that sus- tainability may not be specifically tied to performance but appears to be valued and factored in more generally. Only 10 percent stated it was part of their annual evaluation and less than 2 percent stated it was part of the measurement to qualify for a compensa- tion bonus, according to the survey.

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