Sustainability project, program examples abound with incentives, motivations, open minds

Oct. 26, 2022

Healthcare Purchasing News asked corporate executive-level sustainability experts to share examples and ideas of projects and programs making a difference or that can make a difference. Here’s what they shared.

Mary Starr, Chief Operating Officer, Greenhealth Exchange

“Eliminating chemicals of concern is an ongoing priority for many healthcare providers. Some organizations either already have or are planning to include requirements around this in [requests for proposals]. Additionally, they have educated their architects, facility planners and designers on their priorities in this area which addresses the issue at the beginning of construction instead of after a product is introduced into the facility.”

Lars Thording, Vice President, Marketing & Public Affairs, Innovative Health

“Single-use device reprocessing is a circular healthcare solution that reduces costs significantly, reduces waste, improves resilience and reduces carbon emissions – all without increasing patient risk or forcing physicians to change preferences. As a circular economy solution, this is probably the most impactful in U.S. healthcare today. It is not uncommon for hospitals to save more than $1 million per year though reprocessing, and some health systems reduce their carbon footprint by more than 10,000 pounds CO2 equivalent per year through this initiative. However, hospitals should demand reporting of an environmental focus in the manufacturing process for all manufacturers – including reprocessors. Reduce your water use. Reduce your energy use. Reduce the use of chemicals. All this should be reported to hospital supply chain and made determinative in the vendor selection process.”

Mikhail Davis, Director of Technical Sustainability, Interface

“To help our customers lower the carbon footprints of their spaces and facilities, Interface developed our CQuest backings line, which are carbon negative when measured cradle-to-gate. To develop the CQuest backings, first, we added new bio-based materials and more recycled content to our backings. Then, we measured how these materials influence the carbon footprint. These new materials, measured on a stand-alone basis, are net carbon negative – reducing our carbon footprint – and result in carbon negative backings.”

Evelyn Miller, Senior Manager, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), Medline Industries

“Medline’s Green Product Portfolio (https://www.medline.com/about-us/social-responsibility/sustainability/green-products/) features products that meet industry standards and environmentally preferred purchasing guidelines from organizations including Kaiser Permanente, Practice Greenhealth, the Federal Trade Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency. Anyone is free to browse through the assortment online, and customers can request a report to determine what percentage of their current purchase order is sustainable, as well as current purchases which have a sustainable product alternative available.

Stacy Rubenstein, Senior Public Relations Manager, Corporate Communications, Medline Industries

“Medline ReNewal (https://www.medline.com/perioperative-management/device-reprocessing/) helps health systems reduce waste by reprocessing medical devices so that they may be safely used again while accelerating cost savings. For more than 20 years, Medline ReNewal has been innovating medical device reprocessing from its home-base in Redmond, OR. Utilizing FDA-regulated processes and rigorous device testing standards, Medline ReNewal takes single-use devices (SUDs) that clinicians typically throw away and restores them to like-new condition. With 6.3 million medical devices collected in 2021, the program was able to divert more than 1 million pounds of waste from landfills – equivalent to 39 million water bottles – and avoid 1,496 metric tons of CO2 emissions.”

Dan McGown, Northeast Coordinator, Mattress Recycling Council

“The Mattress Recycling Council has had a few hospital projects in the Northeast prior to the pandemic. In these cases, we provided a trailer for free transportation of the mattress. We arranged the transportation to our mattress recycling facility. Healthcare institutions have been reluctant to try our service. We handle hundreds of mattresses each year from hotels, college dorms and military facilities. Our network is experienced in handling one-time jobs or a long-term renovation project. As long as a mattress is not soiled or contaminated to the degree that it would be a safety hazard for our teams to handle, we can recycle it. To learn more about our program: https://byebyemattress.com/programs-by-state/commercial-recycling/."

Rob Chase, Founder & CEO, NewGen Surgical Inc.

“Dignity Health is now up to 18 tons reduced of single-use plastic waste by switching one product across their whole system – needle counters – to a more sustainable and environmentally preferable product. More recently we worked with one of the major industry surgical kit distributors who switched out the polystyrene packaging tray used in their procedure packs for a Bio-Based tray made from bagasse (sugarcane) fiber. This one change in product packaging has eliminated 27 tons of plastic waste and achieved a 58% reduction in the CO2e associated with the packaging tray, all in just 8 months. This is a tremendous success not only for these impressive environmental metrics achieved but also because each new sustainable product introduced gets the OR staff engaged and thinking about sustainability. Many of the staff who work in operating rooms around the world care passionately about the environment and for Dignity Health and this major distributor to provide a product that is in alignment with their employee’s and customers’ values is empowering.”

Andrew Knox, Manager, Environmentally Preferred Products, Premier

“Speaking in general terms, projects that have the opportunity to both positively impact the environment and save money are often deemed the most successful. Premier has members that have unlocked both significant savings and meaningful environmental improvement through energy conservation (often utilizing state/utility incentives). Anesthetic gas management can also present an opportunity for cost savings while directly cutting a system’s scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions.”

Eileen Buckley, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Stryker 

“Stryker’s Sustainability Solutions provides reprocessing services for single-use medical devices. Reprocessing of single-use medical devices lowers expenses and reduces waste. Over the past five years, 3,000 customers saved $1 billion through reprocessing programs and diverted 27 million pounds of waste from landfills.”

Ryan Arnold, Senior Director for Investments and Partnerships, My Green Lab

“My Green Lab is a nonprofit organization formed to unify and lead scientists, vendors, designers, energy providers, and other professionals in pursuit of a common goal: Building a world in which all research reflects the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility. My Green Lab aims to introduce sustainability to the community responsible for the world’s most revolutionary medical and technical innovations.

“One of its programs, the ACT Environmental Impact Factor Label, gives the Supply Chain in healthcare organizations the opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of labs through smarter purchases. The ACT Label (https://act.mygreenlab.org/) was designed to address the need of both scientists and procurement specialists for clear, third-party verified information about the environmental impact of laboratory products. By emphasizing Accountability, Consistency, and Transparency (ACT) around manufacturing, energy and water use, packaging, and end-of-life, ACT makes it easy to choose more sustainable products. Take it from this client testimonial from an individual at ThermoFisher Scientific, a client that implemented ACT labeling into their practice:

“‘ACT labeling our portfolio helped us understand the myriad of ways our products can help our customers achieve their sustainability goals. Plus, we can point customers to the ACT label database for scores and provide helpful insights to how the scores were generated – both of which will allow customers to make informed decisions when purchasing equipment.’

“The ACT Label is an example of common industry-wide frameworks that are crucial tools for turning commitments into measurable outcomes. They provide a roadmap of practical opportunities for companies, scientists, and suppliers to take positive actions while increasing the transparency of sustainability. See a visual of the ACT label online at https://hpnonline.com/21283352."

Cristina Indiveri, Associate Vice President, Strategic Programs and Contract Services, Vizient

“It takes all industry stakeholders to combat the effects of climate change. For this reason, Vizient incorporates environmentally preferred language into our contracts. Through the contract process, when we are alerted to harmful chemicals of concern or a product that contributes to increased waste, we collaborate with suppliers to find a healthier and safer solution. In one example, this resulted in a modified sustainable product for all Vizient members and retailers. This one product alteration reduced chemical exposure to thousands, if not millions, through a partnership of two teams.”

Paul Murphy, Vice President, Major Accounts & Vertical Markets, Canon Solutions America Inc.

“Canon’s global sustainability efforts start with our Kyosei philosophy of social and environmental responsibility (living and working together for the common good. Through Kyosei, we aim for a society in which all people, regardless of culture, customs, language or race, harmoniously live and work together in happiness into the future. This principal is embedded in our efforts to continue to become a better company for the communities that we serve. Each year, Canon Inc. develops a comprehensive sustainability report that highlights how the company incorporates sustainability in the entire lifecycle of our products and through DEI initiatives across multiple locations. Canon also supports sustainability in healthcare through its annual awards program, recognizing sustainability initiatives in healthcare management education and practice in partnership with the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). Our efforts have led the Ethisphere Institute to recognize Canon as one of the most ethical companies in the world for five consecutive years is the lone honoree in Ethisphere’s Imaging Technology category.”

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