Climate change is a grave challenge in need of solutions. It has been directly linked to a number of poor health outcomes, including chronic respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, as well as hospitalizations and deaths caused by extreme heat or cold, flooding, wildfires and other natural disasters.
While health systems shoulder the burden of caring for individuals affected by the impacts of climate change, the healthcare industry also contributes to the problem, accounting for approximately 9 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S.
Premier believes it’s our corporate responsibility to help reduce our climate impact and support our members in their efforts to do the same given the healthcare industry’s size and substantial carbon footprint and our mission to improve the health of communities.
Here are five key ways we’re advancing a healthier environment for the future.
1. Achieving GHG Benchmarks
To reduce healthcare’s carbon footprint, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) and created a voluntary climate pledge for healthcare organizations.
Premier recently committed to join the HHS effort to reduce GHG emissions in healthcare. Specifically, Premier pledged to reduce our GHG emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
This year, we conducted our first GHG assessment of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, and, as part of our ongoing focus to minimize our environmental impact, we will continue to enhance our efforts by assessing Scope 3 GHG emissions in 2023.
We are striving to standardize our process to improve data collection for our GHG assessment across all occupied properties to better understand the gas, power and water consumption and optimize energy consumption within our corporate offices, data centers and other facilities.
With our health system members and suppliers, Premier is working toward healthcare decarbonization efforts as a cornerstone of our sustainability strategy.
2. Offering an Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) Program
Since 2001, Premier’s EPP program allows our members to identify and select products and packaging that are less toxic, minimize pollution and are safer for patients, workers and the environment.
Alongside our members, Premier works with suppliers to ensure sustainability information is made available before purchasing decisions are made. Our extensive requests for information (RFIs) to suppliers include standardized questions on EPP policies and practices and are guided by our EPP Advisory Council.
Comprised of sustainability and supply chain specialists from a cross-section of member health systems, EPP Advisory Council input is vital to ensuring that our efforts reflect their goals, and that the appropriate and relevant supplier documentation is in place. The EPP Council serves not only to advise on EPP matters for contracts, but also as a forum for members to discuss how best to drive sustainability in healthcare and solve common challenges.
Recent discussions have focused on plastic elimination in the foodservice setting, composting and waste disposal, and contractual barriers to increased reuse and reprocessing.
3. Harnessing the Power of Data
Using Premier technology – containing EPP information for more than 200,000 products and nearly 400 suppliers – providers can easily identify sustainable suppliers and products designed to reduce environmental impact, pinpoint gaps and opportunities, and benchmark against their goals.
These data-driven insights make patterns evident and best practices real, helping providers achieve meaningful sustainability improvement and outcomes. As a use case, Premier members are leveraging RFI information and supply chain data to support programs aimed at the reduction and elimination of certain anesthetic gases, such as Desflurane, that have significant global warming potential.
4. Reducing Waste Through Device Reprocessing
Medical device reprocessing – a multistep process for cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing medical equipment for reuse – can save providers considerable financial resources as well as dramatically reduce medical waste destined for landfills.
Premier offers reprocessing under contract for many items so that they may be used again safely and with environmental stewardship in mind. We also offer blended codes under certain contracts, allowing members to easily take advantage of device reprocessing. Finally, Premier also supports the provision of reusable items across the supply chain, supporting members in their efforts to cut down on the amount of waste they produce.
As an example, one Premier-contracted supplier offers a fluid cart with proprietary cleaners and a closed-system process that reduces operating room (OR) red bag waste by up to 70 percent with its reusable reservoirs – eliminating the OR’s need for plastic containers.
Where reprocessing isn’t feasible, it may still be possible to divert waste from landfill by sending products to companies that recycle the valuable materials often contained within these items.
5. Providing Support Through Education and Advocacy
Premier is committed to supporting our members’ and suppliers’ diverse sustainability and decarbonization objectives. To that end, we will continue to provide educational resources regarding environmental sustainability. In addition, our team in Washington, D.C., will continue to advocate for appropriate resources for hospitals, suppliers and other healthcare entities to meet their environmental sustainability goals.
Making a Premier Impact
Transforming healthcare is more than our goal – it’s in our DNA – and sustainability is at the heart of our mission to improve the health of communities. Our sustainability strategy reflects the intersection of our mission and business strategy and is centered on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) areas most critical to our stakeholders, guiding how we strive to make a positive impact for our communities, employees, partners, suppliers and the environment.
Demonstrating our commitment to our mission and on managing our environmental footprint and to reinforce an organizational focus on the environment, we recently adopted an Environmental Policy. Key elements of our Environmental Policy include:
· Premier’s acknowledgement that our business operations have an impact on the environment and that we have a role to protect the environment throughout the value chain.
· A description of Premier’s approach to environmental management and key issues such as climate change, efficient use of energy and natural resources as well as our focus on an environmentally responsible supply chain.
· Premier’s commitment to being compliant with environmental laws and regulations, monitoring and improving environmental programs, and setting environmental targets.
· Premier’s commitment to report regularly on environmental issues, engage our stakeholders, and implement Board and management oversight.
We believe that our long-term success and sustainability strategy are interdependent and start with our unique culture – one that is committed to making a difference in all that we do.