Organizational structure for sustainability

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Peer-sourced sustainability program examples

This guide highlights sustainability committee structures and activities from several partner hospitals and health systems of various sizes.

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Environmental commitment or mission statements

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
“To lead and innovate sustainable practices with an environmental, social, and economic benefit for our patients, staff, and community in support of Memorial Sloan Kettering's mission to pursue excellence in the care and cure for cancer.”

University of Chicago Medical Center
“Coordinate efforts at UChicago Medicine around green initiatives, focused on sustainability best practices that promote patient satisfaction, employee engagement, and value to UCM and the communities we serve.”

Providence 
“We know that to achieve our vision of Health for a Better World, we must extend our healing beyond the walls of our ministries and partner facilities, into the world around us. We believe that environmental stewardship is the right thing to do - for our caregivers, patients and communities. Our Providence vision is “Health for a Better World.” One of the biggest challenges our world has ever faced is the threat of climate change. To do out part, we commit to: Carbon negative by 2030”

HealthPartners
“HealthPartners is committed to caring for the places where we live and work. We want to provide a healthier, cleaner, and more livable environment for our members, patients, colleagues, and future generations. We will: 
1. Expand the use of sustainable and earth-friendly practices that help us work smarter, be healthier, and save money. 
2. Encourage employees to participate in, champion, or support sustainability practices, both at work and at home. 
3. Measure and monitor our progress toward our sustainability goals. 
4. Lead, advocate, or implement initiatives that improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve.”

UCLA Medical Center
Vision: “UCLA Health will be a leader in advancing sustainability practices through research and innovation in our operating rooms (ORs); educate the clinical leaders of tomorrow to address  complex global social and environmental problems; and set an example of responsible resource stewardship by integrating sustainability into our operations.”
 

Program staffing and management

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
2.5 full-time equivalents (FTEs): 1.0 FTE sustainability manager, 1.0 FTE sustainability coordinator and 0.5FTE energy and sustainability PM (facilities management)

University of Chicago Medical Center
There are no dedicated resources. VP supply chain and VP facilities and support services are co-exec sponsors, and there are four volunteer co-chairs (facilities, risk management, supply chain, social work)

Providence Health
Officially at the system level 2.6 FTE.  Some hospitals have someone in a part-time capacity. Providence St. Peter – 1 FTE is a mix of facilities and sustainability. At St. Patrick, staffing is at  0.45 of an FTE.  Other sites are doing sustainability work in addition to other roles.

HealthPartners
2.0 FTEs: Director of sustainability and sustainability consultant

UCLA Medical Center
1.0 FTE sustainability program manager with oversight from an administrative director of environmental services and sustainability 
 

Common sustainability committee structures

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
The sustainability team is the central institutional committee responsible for identifying and implementing center-wide sustainability initiatives. Each sustainability team committee member represents a prioritized department or function and works in conjunction with sustainability staff.

University of Chicago Medical Center
One sustainability team (Team EAR3TH) represents all facilities, including a mix of operational leaders and passionate employees.

Providence
Representatives from each site report through ACES’ monthly meeting. The monthly ACES meeting features a state of the sustainability team report from a hospital or region, as well as a specific monthly educational topic. Environmental stewardship is positioned in the division “Community Partnerships” and works closely with the operational division “Real Estate and Strategic Operations.” They are guided by a strategic plan, policies, and senior leadership support.

HealthPartners
Organizational wide steering committees and hospital sustainability teams have cross-departmental representation. Members include subject matter experts (e.g., housekeeping, facilities, OR), passionate volunteers, and/or colleagues with strategic decision making capabilities (e.g., directors, managers, supervisors). Each sustainability team has an executive sponsor, a leader, and at least one member of the sustainability department present and/or available as a resource.

UCLA Medical Center
There is an overarching sustainability committee with director level support and engagement. They have a point person in each department and they meet on a quarterly basis.

Multiple task force working groups include:

  • Greening the OR,
  • zero waste,
  • energy, water, climate,
  • transportation,
  • nutrition, and 
  • green building 
     

Meeting frequency

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Monthly for one hour

University of Chicago Medical Center
Every other month for one hour for “live” meetings. The co-chairs meet with the VP of supply chain bi-weekly for planning and key tasks.

Providence 
Monthly for one hour 

HealthPartners
Depends on the sustainability team – meeting frequency ranges from monthly, bi-monthly, and quarterly, one hour each.

UCLA Medical Center
Sustainability goals and policies come from the University of California’s office of the president and each committee has a charter outlining meeting frequency as follows:

  • Monthly and quarterly for one hour 
  • Task forces and sustainability committee meet on a monthly basis
  • Greening the OR steering committee team meets on a quarterly basis 
  • Project committee meetings are ongoing throughout the month 
     

Senior and executive leadership involvement

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Senior management staff (generally VP and director level) represent a range of departments across the organization, including hospital administration, facilities management, design and construction, supply chain, food and nutrition services, human resources,  marketing and communications, surgery (greening the OR), radiology, Sloan Kettering Institute (SKI) Administration (Green Labs), environmental services, environmental health and safety, ambulatory care, and sustainability.  The committee chair is the senior vice president of supply chain and sustaining care services and the vice chair is the vice president of plant operations.

University of Chicago Medical Center
The VP of supply chain and the VP of facilities and support services are co-executive sponsors, and there are four volunteer co-chairs (facilities, risk management, supply chain, social work). Other members include marketing, supply chain, EVS, and food service, perioperative, ambulatory, human resources, inpatient, and various other interested employees.

Providence 
ACES is co-led by the executive director of environmental stewardship and the senior energy and sustainability manager. The remaining members on ACES come from all departments and varying positions. Attendance and participation is open to all caregivers (employees).

HealthPartners
Sustainability team leaders are mid to senior level management personnel. Examples of sustainability team leaders include the director of plant operations and maintenance, the director of housekeeping and guest experience, and the senior director of human resources. Each sustainability team also has an executive sponsor that approves annual work plans. Examples of executive sponsors include senior vice president, chief financial officer, and vice president of real estate. Sustainability team members range from subject matter experts, department leaders, and passionate volunteers. Examples include operating room supervisor, nutrition services, employee health and wellness, laboratory managers, anesthesiology, clinical engineering, housekeeping, environmental services, supply chain and purchasing, nursing, safety, and security, etc.

UCLA Medical Center
There are three different functions within the UCLA Medical Center sustainability program structure and each includes different representatives as shown below: 

  1. Director: sustainability committee and GOR
  2. Taskforce: managers and supervisors
  3. Working groups: assistance managers, general staff, RNs 
     

Staff engagement

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Sustainability team leads are senior level leadership, department heads, or outpatient administrators representing core components of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s sustainability program framework, leading operations that span across sites. The staff engagement sub-committee helps align volunteer “GreenReps” (staff extensions of the sustainability team across the organization) which has 100% representation from all sites and major departments. 

University of Chicago Medical Center
The team’s main focus is on the main campus facilities, but they have representation from some shared services departments that have responsibility for all sites (e.g., supply chain, EVS and food service, facilities).

Providence
ACES helps to engage hospitals and multiple sites by meeting them where they are and allowing them to voice their concerns and success stories. The more internal collaboration that is experienced, the more common resources are shared to help push best practices.

HealthPartners
Each hospital sustainability team is represented on the org-wide steering committee, which meets monthly. This committee also includes representatives from clinics, specialty centers, and administrative buildings. The network of green champions brings together colleagues from these locations.

UCLA Medical Center
Project committees are ongoing throughout the month. Smaller groups bring more engagement and responsibility to fulfill projects.
 

Sustainability communications

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Progress on annual goals is presented to all sustainability-related committees and select leadership. Progress on key performance indicators (KPIs), metrics, key initiative details, and the annual sustainability report are available to all staff via the sustainability site on the internet. There is communication throughout the year via monthly sustainability team meetings, sub-committee meetings, newsfeeds and pages, printed communications (e.g., signs, posters), fairs in cafeterias/staff lounges, and presentations to key committees (e.g., steering committees, product evaluation committees).

University of Chicago Medical Center
Monthly alternate between “live”/Zoom meetings, monthly email updates on key initiatives and goals, and e-mail updates are sent out to a broader senior leadership team for awareness

Providence 
System-level communication occurs through the external website, internal Sharepoint, emails, ACES meetings, a monthly article in “Caregiver News,” social media posts, podcast episodes, and other opportunities that arise. Some regions include additional ES content in their communications. Local sites often provide communications through emails, signage, events, videos, social media posts, and meetings.

HealthPartners
A five-year sustainability plan was developed and approved by the org-wide steering committee and executive sponsors. Each sustainability team has an annual work plan, which includes internal stakeholder engagement and other communication goals. The sustainability department meets monthly with a representative from our communications department. The annual communications plan is developed as a team. 

UCLA Medical Center
The branded campaign strategy is “a sustainable U”. The campaign includes signage touching on single device reprocessing, composting, and recycling. Communication is delivered through Microsoft sites in addition to the monthly team meetings and an email that sends out sustainability updates for events, like Earth Day. Also, a key performance indicator (KPI) dashboard is shared through individual sustainability groups. 
 

Common challenges

While there are always some unique challenges, there were common themes shared among the five hospitals including:

  • Competing priorities: Unless the CEO or another high-ranking executive leader of the hospital or system sees sustainability as a priority,  programs may be slow to gain momentum, mature, and create impact.
  • Voluntary efforts: Eventually, grass-root sustainability programs will reach a point when either dedicated staffing or consultants will be needed as employee volunteers don’t have the time to pick up extra green team activities while balancing their day-to-day jobs.
  • Sustainability solutions take time: Often progress is iterative versus all at once due to the change in behavior, resources, and overall solutions being limited in the marketplace.

Tips for success

  1. Sustainability program leaders found the best success when involving staff directly affected by sustainability initiatives as early on in the planning process as possible. 
  2. Start slowly by choosing projects that can demonstrate measurable success or impact. 
  3. Find ways to include sustainability as part of employee annual or quarterly goals. 
  4. Find the right channels for communication and use them often. Encourage continual engagement to grow the conversation and demand for a sustainability program and allocated resources.
  5. Give appreciation, recognition, and feedback to volunteers and staff who make the program possible.
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