Sustainability for the Future

By Nancy E. Berry on March 19, 2012

Kimberly-Clark joins forces with the Greening the OR Initiative to continue to raise the bar of sustainability in hospitals.

Practice Greenhealth’s Greening the OR Initiative recently announced Kimberly-Clark has joined the circle of supporters, sponsoring the Greening the OR Initiative along with SRI Surgical, Hospital Corporation of America, Stryker Sustainability Solutions, HDR, Inc, Cardinal Health, Hospira, Becton Dickinson, Mazzetti + Nash Lipsey Burke, and Velmed.

Through a portfolio of innovative infection prevention solutions for the OR, including surgical masks, gowns, drapes, and medical gloves, Kimberly-Clark offers clinicians a range of solutions for pain management, respiratory, and digestive health. Kimberly-Clark comes to the table with a broad range of sustainable initiatives under their Sustainability 2015 program, underpinning their corporate global business plan. The company recognizes the Greening the OR Initiative to be of great importance, as the OR is a key focus in greening efforts within hospitals across the country.

“Kimberly-Clark looks forward to engaging with the Greening the OR Initiative through Practice Greenhealth,” says Jane Hart, sustainability leader and senior creative manager for Kimberly-Clark Health Care. “The operating room is a foundational focus for our health care business and the commitment to a careful balance of clinical and environmental needs is a critical consideration for today and tomorrow.” She continues, “Practice Greenhealth allows us to remain grounded in the pressures and sensitivities related to the OR—and being part of an external group like this pushes us to be even better.”

Kimberly-Clark works to balance protecting health care workers, patients, and the environment by focusing on every aspect of the product—from what it is made of to how it is disposed. “Our products serve as a protective barrier between germs and the patient and clinicians, who come first and foremost,” notes Hart. Since creating the category of sterile wrap, the company holds 90 percent of that market with its KIMGUARD sterilization wrap, and all of their manufacturing plants for this product are located in the United States.

The Sustainability 2015 goals will touch all three pillars of sustainability—people, planet, and products—which include being 100 percent landfill free, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by five percent from 2010, and reducing manufacturing water use by 25 percent. “While many manufacturers simply focus on the ‘trashcan,’ Kimberly-Clark looks at the full lifecycle of a product,” says Hart. “We consider the materials, manufacturing process, and delivery of a product—really a cradle-to-cradle mindset.” The company also looks globally for sustainability challenges and solutions. For instance, by 2020, Brazil signed into law the formation of producer take-back programs, termed “reverse logistics,” whereby manufacturers and importers must manage their end-of-life products, this will likely include manufacturers of medical supplies and devices. They will need to manage the recycling of products and packaging that they are able and responsibly dispose of the rest. “This will be a challenge for businesses in Brazil but it’s a strategy for creating a more sustainable environment,” says Hart. Kimberly-Clark is also engaged in global economics. “As Third World areas become increasingly more affluent, there will be tremendous growth and development and a pressing need for more sustainability practices,” she says. “This is an exciting time to be involved in this movement and communication is key as we aim to solve problems together. Being a part of Practice Greenhealth helps us to achieve our goals.”

The Greening the OR Initiative is off to another busy year with plans to continue the Greening the OR webinar series, add to the guidance documents, and have a large presence at AORN Congress as well as CleanMed. The GOR Video Contest is also open, with the winner being featured at CleanMed and winning free downloads of the recorded CleanMed sessions. The Virtual Green OR is continuously being enhanced, and tours are available on an individual basis.

“Sustainable business practices are woven into the fabric of our Global Business Plan. We challenge ourselves every day to look for ways to sustain the resources we enjoy today for generations to come. That’s why Kimberly-Clark is focused on setting and achieving sustainability performance metrics for our brands and facilities.”

—Tom Falk, K-C’s Chairman and CEO