UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, November 2014

Healthier Hospitals Initiative Releases 2013 Milestone Report

Report CoverThe Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) released its 2013 Milestone Report, which shows that more leading hospitals are adopting innovative sustainability practices to reduce their environmental footprint, lower costs and improve the health of patients and staff.  Launched in April 2012, HHI is a national campaign to promote a more sustainable business model for health care while addressing the health and environmental impacts of the industry.  Membership in HHI is free and it provides an entry point for health care organizations just get started on the sustainability journey and also provides resources to help more mature programs accelerate progress.  Resources include Webinars, case studies, success stories, and videos. 

In 2012, UCSF Medical Center (UCSFMC) joined the HHI and committed to five of the six planks:  Engaged Leadership, Healthier Food, Safer Chemicals, Smarter Purchasing, and Less Waste. This initiative was founded by 11 of the largest, most influential U.S. health systems, comprising over 490 hospitals with more than $20 billion in purchasing power. It has served as a guide to help UCSFMC reduce energy and waste, purchase safer and less toxic materials, and serve healthier foods.

“Hospitals nationwide are transforming their purchasing practices to avoid toxic chemicals, buy healthier food and beverages and become energy efficient and less wasteful,” said Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and founder of HHI. “This report shows that clear trends have emerged and innovative hospitals are implementing strategies to reduce costs, improve their environmental performance and support broader environmental health goals.”

HHI is about the power of data to drive positive change in health care.  More and more hospitals are sharing environmental data.  For 2013, 638 hospitals submitted data, including energy data captured though EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and waste, purchasing, chemicals, and food data.  Below a few of the key trends highlighted in the report:

Engaged Leadership Emphasized

Engaged Leadership is one of the pillars of the HHI.  The report emphasizes, “Health care organizations rely on the support of senior leadership to ensure that sustainability and its impact on human health remains a strategic priority.”  The Engaged Leadership Challenge saw significant growth, expanding from 143 to 178 facilities since the 2012 Milestone Report.  The most popular strategy in this category was to create a strategic sustainability plan.  UCSF completed its Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) 1.0 which determines goals, strategies, and tactics through 2014 and is working to complete this year the SAP2.0 which address activities through 2020.

Safer Chemicals

HHI works with hospitals to reduce the exposure of patients to known reproductive and developmental toxicants and to switch to safer alternatives.  Hospitals who take on this issue are leading the way to move the marketplace towards safer materials.  Potential strategies in this category include eliminate PVC/DEHP from products and to purchase the major of cleaning supplies from Green Seal or EcoLogo Certified products. The number of hospitals demanding that upholstered furnishings avoid toxic flame retardants or other unsafe chemicals is on the rise.  Learn more about UCSF’s toxic reduction efforts in the new UCSFMC Sustainability Report.

Smarter Purchasing and Documented Cost Savings

When it comes to buying green, a key strategy is to commit to increasing purchases of reprocessed single-use devices.  This is a proven cost-saving measure that extends the life of a medical device while reducing costs.  Another great way to save money and reduce waste is to purchase reformulated surgical kits.  For 2013, 27 hospitals reported saving over $2.8 million by minimizing the presence of unused supplies.  Through partnerships with Hygia, Masimo, and Stryker, single use devices collected in the Surgery Department, Electrophysiology lab, and patient rooms for reprocessing saved UCSFMC $903,336 in FY12-13 and $931,466 in FY13-14.

Uptake on Sustainable Food

Figures show big trends around local, sustainable food and healthier beverages as more hospitals commit to modeling healthy behavior and reducing diet-related, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. By creating healthier menus, buying from local farmers, reducing the amount of meat served, and procuring more fair trade and certified organic products, leading hospitals made substantial progress.  The majority reported spending more than 15 percent of their food budget on local and sustainable food, with an average of $23.7 million spent in 2013. These figures represent an increase of more than 350 percent in local/sustainable spending from the previous year.

Despite the increasing costs of foods meeting UC criteria for sustainability, UCSFMC has continued its strong commitment to sourcing foods that are locally grown, organic, GMO-free, and cultivated in humane and sustainable ways. UCSFMC continues to grow its sustainable food spend, reaching an outstanding 26.7% sustainable food purchases in FY13-14.  UCSFMC’s total food spend for FY13-14 was $5.89M, with over $1.5M of this going toward sustainable purchases.

Learn More
In addition to releasing the Milestone Report, HHI launched an interactive, animated video, which captures the scope of our impact in 2013.  Check out the video “HHI Milestone Report: Visualizing a Healthier Future” below.