Sustainability programs that are aligned with organizational priorities are more likely to gain senior leadership’s support and lead to long-term success. Almost 90% of the top-performing institutions in our sustainability benchmark reports have an executive-level champion at the top of their reporting structure. This executive champion or sponsor brings credibility and authority to the program’s mission and goals while setting a tone from the top that this work is important.
Equally important are environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. This criteria has been used for years to assess a company's or an organization's performance or a “triple bottom line.” Health care can apply ESG criteria to many facets of their organization, including energy and waste management systems, investments in community health, and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
These and other initiatives demonstrate that operating a well-run hospital or health system requires a sense of communal responsibility. Sam Ross, MD, chief community health officer for Bon Secours Mercy Health in Baltimore, said health care leaders often think they have the right answers before they have finished asking the right questions about their ESG priorities.
“Health systems think we have this list of what we should prioritize, what should matter, then we actually get into true community engagement – and if we're truly committed to that practice, then we're asking what matters to you, the community.” – Sam Ross, MD, Bon Secours Mercy Health
Many hospitals have found success and support from their leaders by aligning sustainability initiatives with their organization’s existing business processes and procedures from the beginning, including:
- Identifying current successes to demonstrate return on investment in sustainability programming
- Building sustainability projects that have a clear business case
- Choosing projects that fit within the strategic priorities of the organization
- Establishing organizational commitments to sustainability goals in writing
- Identifying executive and clinical champions and creating a reporting structure with accountability resting at the executive level
“We need to act not just as physicians but as members of a sector that has its own, not insignificant, carbon footprint that can be managed down with benefits for public health and the sector’s bottom line.” – Jeff Thompson, MD, Gundersen Health System executive adviser, CEO emeritus
Practice Greenhealth has more than two decades of experience working with hospitals and health systems. Together, we implement sustainability programs rooted in the business process. Based on partner needs, we develop guidance and tools that help organizations navigate any and every stage of sustainability program development, especially the challenges of securing stakeholder and leadership engagement.
The Environmental Excellence Awards are the nation’s premier recognition program for environmental performance in the health care sector. The Circle of Excellence Awards celebrate hospitals that have not only earned an award for all-around sustainability achievement, but have also been identified as the top-scoring programs for each category of sustainability.
The Leadership Circle represents high-performing hospitals that have a strong infrastructure supporting a long-term commitment to healthier environments through leadership vision, committee structure, reporting, data tracking, communication, and education.
Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital
Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center*
Hudson Hospital & Clinic*
Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital*
VHA 04 James E. VanZandt VA Medical Center (Altoona, PA)*
VHA 07 Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center (Charleston, SC)*
VHA 08 VA Caribbean Healthcare System (San Juan, PR)*
VHA 12 Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center (Milwaukee, WI)*
*also a Top 25 honoree