Partner perspective: Spectrum Health (Part 2 of 2)
CFO at Spectrum Health
Number of beds: 2,522 beds
Number of FTE: 31,000
Matt Cox has served as Spectrum Health’s CFO and the executive sponsor for the system’s sustainability program since 2017. In this second of a two-part feature on health care finance leaders and sustainability, Cox shares about Spectrum Health’s sustainable purchasing and decarbonization strategies and his advice for other CFOs getting started in sustainability.
Why does Spectrum Health belong to Practice Greenhealth?
I think that Practice Greenhealth is a true leader in the industry, and at Spectrum Health, protecting the environment is an important value. Practice Greenhealth helps us figure out best practices and things we can do to speed up our journey, which is very valuable to us. Our sustainability leader Sarah Chartier speaks highly of Practice Greenhealth, and we want to support our employees and give them the tools they need to be successful.
What is your advice to other CFOs just getting started in sustainability?
Sustainability commitments and requirements are happening all around us in every industry, and leaders are setting big, audacious goals. Educate yourself and your team about why these goals are being set. Look to peers for best practices. Discuss what you learn with your leadership team, CEO, and eventually the Board of Directors. Education is a great place to start, followed by setting achievable goals with your team and celebrating organizational success.
How is Spectrum Health making purchasing decisions that address risks like climate change, health disparities, and global pandemics?
All Spectrum Health employees are environmental stewards and have the power to make a difference. There is an increased understanding in health care of the importance and interconnectedness of environmental and human health.
We’re currently working to add language that aligns with our organizational sustainability goals into our sourcing events and supplier scorecards. This will allow us to partner with our suppliers to create innovative solutions.
Once the tone has been set by leadership and teams are unleashed to make addressing climate change and health disparities part of the purchasing process, different decisions are made.
What enables a CFO/decision-maker to look beyond the financial component?
Financial priorities are important to all health system stakeholders including CFOs. We often say “no margin equals no mission,” which means that if our organization is not financially viable, we are unable to deliver on our mission.
At Spectrum Health, we believe in the interconnectedness of human and environmental health. We are called to protect the natural environment by making our operations more sustainable and investing in the health of our local and global communities. I would encourage my fellow CFOs to look for win-win projects that make good sense both economically and environmentally. With improved technology and innovation, new ideas and projects will continue to come your way.
Why are renewable energy and decarbonization critical to Spectrum Health’s strategy?
For us to deliver on our mission, we must purposefully choose actions that make a positive, sustainable impact on people, our environment, and the economic health of the communities we serve. A combination of highly visible environmental investments and credits makes up our chosen path to carbon neutrality by 2040. We could technically become carbon neutral much faster by investing only in credits, but I do not find that strategy to be very inspiring.
Some of the investments we are making have long paybacks, and one could question if these investments are the best use of our capital. I personally believe that by making visible investments and explaining why we are making them, we will inspire many. Visible investments may inspire employees to make their own sustainable investments locally, such as driving an electric vehicle or shopping at farmers markets and other local and regional businesses.
We want to inspire others. If an organization would like to speak with me, I’m happy to talk about the value sustainability brings to both meeting our mission and driving responsible investments.
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