A version of this piece first appeared on LinkedIn.
At last month’s Health Evolution Summit in Laguna, California, 3M Health Care hosted a panel on sustainability in the industry. It’s an incredibly important topic, not only for what the industry has accomplished already, but for how much potential still exists.
At the beginning of the discussion, the panelists – including senior leaders from Merck and Gunderson Health System – noted that, as compared to other industries, the health care industry has significant opportunities to achieve sustainability successes, critical when you consider the significance of health care’s environmental footprint. Here’s the first graphic we shared at the event:
You know the saying “time is money”? Well, so is sustainability. For example, the US health care industry spent $8.8 billion on energy in 2013, and hospitals spent another $10 billion on waste disposal. In addition to these financial costs, the environmental choices we all make have a significant impact on public health, as you can see.
Fortunately, there are organizations that are making progress tackling these challenges. We heard about one hospital system based in nearby Wisconsin that has improved its energy efficiency to such a degree that it actually produced more energy than it consumed. We heard about reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, in waste production and in water use – by the billions of gallons. Here at 3M, our Pollution Prevention Pays program – which has been around since the ‘70s – has saved around $2 billion. In health care specifically, we’re not only constantly improving our own products and processes, but we’re providing means for our customers to improve theirs, too. Click on the link below to learn more about what we do and how we do it.
As you can imagine, preventing waste and saving energy has a positive financial impact. It’s an important lesson: Sustainability can be used to create value. We need more companies and organizations in the health care space to initiate or more aggressively advance sustainability programs. By doing so, we can all save money, improve health, and improve lives.