Celebrating Sustainability Innovation, Excellence and Momentum

2017 marks the 15th year of our Environmental Excellence Awards. Over that time, we have seen the criteria for environmental excellence in health care shift dramatically.

By Cecilia DeLoach Lynn on May 8, 2017

SPR17_PGH_CoverFeatureLetter_DeLoachLynnCeciliaIn the early years, recycling and regulated medical waste reduction were the hallmarks of a strong commitment to sustainability—with energy reduction and efficiency following close behind. The mid-2000s brought a focus on pharmaceutical management, as well as a keener understanding of the benefits of designing and constructing high-performance healing environments—and consequently, more Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified hospitals.

An early focus on waste management in the food services arena gave way to a comprehensive emphasis on sustainable food systems, looking at pesticide use, overuse of antibiotics, healthier beverages, and access to local and sustainable foods. As more peer-reviewed science emerged showing the link between chemicals in products and potential health impacts, health care began to focus on addressing chemicals of concern, starting with mercury and evolving to include DEHP and PVC, halogenated flame retardants, formaldehyde, VOCs, bisphenol A, and antimicrobials such as triclosan and triclocarban, to name a few.

As public scrutiny of corporate social responsibility and sustainability practices has increased, a much heavier reliance on the use of quantitative metrics that represent sustainability progress has emerged. The Practice Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Awards have mirrored that focus, with the application for the Partner for Change Award now assessing 26 different sustainability metrics across seven different topic areas—waste, chemicals, operating rooms, food, energy, water and climate.

This represents a subtle shift from the more qualitative determinant, “What are you doing to make your facility more sustainable?” to the more measurable question of “How well is the facility doing at becoming more sustainable?” While collecting this quantitative data for the first time can be very challenging, many hospitals report that the measurement focus has helped them better capture the value and return on investment of these programs for executive teams, for internal storytelling that supports greater engagement, and for demonstrating the business case for sustainability. Looking to the future, Practice Greenhealth will continue to support member hospitals and health systems in utilizing this data to drive progress, as well as use this data itself to help leverage market transformation for safer products and services.

Because of you, recognition for environmental excellence through Practice Greenhealth continues to be the gold standard across the health care sector. Thank you for another year of amazing work and captivating success stories—and for sharing our vision for healthier, more environmentally sustainable provision of care.

Warmest Regards,
Cecilia DeLoach Lynn, MBA, LEED AP
Director of Sector Performance & Recognition
On behalf of the Practice Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Awards team