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NHS Keep Sustainability on the Boardroom Agenda

NHS Keep Sustainability on the Boardroom Agenda
Sustainable Development is on the Government's agenda for the long-term.
Although climate change is the most serious global environmental threat, promoting a clear and transparent sustainable strategy throughout organisations can lead to cost savings whilst also facilitating the firm to develop a competitive advantage that enables them to capitalise on environmental and energy efficiency opportunities.   The NHS has already been set the challenge of making efficiency savings of between 15 billion and 20 billion across 2011 to 2014 to reinvest in year-on-year improvements in quality.
One way the NHS can make savings is by becoming more sustainable.
The NHS is the largest single estate in Europe, employing 5 per cent of the UK workforce, with a very large carbon footprint of 18 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This is composed of energy (22%), travel (18%) and procurement (60%). This means that meeting the Climate Change Act targets of 26% reduction by 2020 and 80% reduction by 2050 will be a challenge.  In order to meet its obligations under the Climate Change Act, the NHS needs to embed sustainable practices across the sector - people, procurement and processes. The development of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit helps the NHS fulfil its potential as a leading sustainable and low carbon healthcare service.
With a keen interest is leading change to a low carbon economy International Sustainability Recruitment Consultancy, Allen & York have interviewed
Sonia Roschnik, the Operational Director at the NHS Development Unit:
A&Y: What are the current measures the NHS is making toward a sustainable future?SR: Firstly it might be helpful to give some context for clarity the NHS isnt one organisation it is made up of around 400 organisations all of which are going through a period of profound change. The NHS Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for England is a small unit which works in close collaboration with NHS organisations, the Department of Health, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and environmental groups.  We provide leadership, support and policy input to ensure the NHS is leading the public sector in sustainable development and mitigating climate change.  We offer support and advice and provide tools to create a more sustainable business model and raise awareness throughout the organisation, from ground to board level, of the key issues.  To drive the carbon reduction strategy forward the NHS SDU has put in place a Sustainable Development Management Plan, which has been officially signed off at Board level.  The plan was supported by a consultative process across the NHS and the SDU were cheered that 66% of people agreed that carbon reduction and a sustainable future are of great importance to the NHS.Each NHS Trust reports annually on their sustainability indicators, including procurement (59% of carbon emission), travel (17%), building energy usage (24%) and waste. The SDU collate the data, monitor usage and feedback to the trusts.A&Y:  How have budget cuts affected the efforts towards a more sustainable health service?SR:  In some ways the budget cuts will act as a catalyst to support the process of creating a more sustainable organisation.  It follows that as energy, waste and procured goods are reduced or organisations act more sustainably in these areas, then money is saved.  However, the danger is that budget cuts might also mean less effort is focused on sustaining the reductions in the future.  So it is vital for the SDU to keep sustainability on the boardroom agenda.  A large part of our mission is about enabling discussion at board level and supporting strategic debate around saving money, reducing carbon and ultimately achieving government targets of 10% carbon reduction by 2015.
A&Y:   How are trusts audited on environmental compliance issues such as 14001?SR:  The SDU doesnt formally audit the trusts, however there is a process of reporting, monitoring and commitment from each trust to achieve its targets. 
 A&Y:   In what areas of sustainability has the SDU been most successful give examples of schemes that have embraced more sustainable practice?SR:  A recent success has been the agreement and sign-up of NHS organisations to the Sustainable Development Management Plan process, which sets the blueprint from which everything else should follow.  Specific examples of where the NHS is looking to become more sustainable would include tele-medicine, whereby clinical follow-ups can be carried out over the phone with your doctor and video link access is available for direct contact with specialists. Emphasis is put on contributing to health, rather than treating sickness.  Home treatment would cut down on the amount of travel to and from surgeries and hospital, thereby saving on carbon miles.A&Y:   With environmental stewardship being one of the biggest agendas in all industry sectors, what are biggest challenges the NHS face over the next 5 years?SR:  Primarily the challenge is to maintain momentum in a rapidly changing organisation.  The abolition of primary care trusts, changes to the CRC, the recent public sector cuts all affect the NHS. Opportunities are also opening up to us, for example the lifting of the ban on public sector organisations to produce renewable energy.  However, the huge number of challenges and opportunities cant divert us from our goal of embedding Sustainable Development Management Plans in all NHS organisations.


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