Greener Products Essential to Sustainable Healthcare
Greener Products Essential to Sustainable Healthcare
(3BL Media) June 27, 2012 - Recognizing that human health is connected to the health of the planet, healthcare providers and suppliers are making strides to reduce their environmental impact. A major component of this is through greener products and supplies.
Lara Sutherland, an expert in sustainable purchasing, can attest to this. As Director of Business Membership for Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading membership organization dedicated to sustainable healthcare, she sees firsthand how suppliers are revamping product formulas, changing manufacturing processes, and introducing reusable components and recyclable materials, among many other initiatives.
She cited the Johnson & Johnson internal Earthwards® process of product lifecycle analysis as an example. “They’re doing some incredible stuff,” Sutherland said. “I haven’t seen anything else like it. Earthwards® is aptly phrased: Toward improvement. They really want to do something that helps the environment.”
To achieve Earthwards® recognition, a product must achieve a greater than 10 percent improvement in at least three of seven areas: materials, packaging, energy, waste, water, social impact and innovation. Since the program launch in 2009, 33 products have earned this recognition, including JOHNSON’S® NATURAL™ Baby Wash, o.b.® Tampons, the entire Neutrogena Naturals product line, INVEGA® Sustenna™ (paliperidone) ACUVUE® OASYS® Brand Contact Lens and the OneTouch® UltraMini® Testing Kit. The company is over halfway toward its Johnson & Johnson Healthy Future 2015 goal of 60 Earthwards® products.
Sutherland sits on the external panel of experts that scrutinizes all applications and sees the improvements achieved by products that earn Earthwards® recognition. She encourages product managers to use the vetted product claims to their advantage in marketing, even though there’s no external labeling.
“What’s great about the Earthwards® process is that it gives them credit for what they’re doing,” Sutherland says. “Those product managers now have quantifiable data to illustrate the environmental improvements they’ve made,” which is a talking point they should share with customers and use in their marketing, she adds. “The data that comes from Earthwards® is something they can share with customers. Hospitals like something that’s quantifiable. Hospitals really do care about that.”
In fact, new research confirms that environmental sustainability and green attributes rank high in the purchasing decisions of Institutional Delivery Networks (IDNs) and hospitals in the United States, Brazil, Germany, and Italy. A full 54% of respondents rated the impact of “green” on purchasing decisions for healthcare products and supplies—specifically, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and diagnostics—an 8 or higher on a 10-point scale, in research conducted by SK&A from January to March, 2012. Nearly one-third of current requests for proposals for medical products include green attributes, while key decision makers expect nearly 40% of future requests for proposals to include green attributes, the report found.
Sutherland, who works closely with suppliers, recognizes the importance of procurement, having spent many years in environmental purchasing, first for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and then when she joined Practice Greenhealth in 2008. She’s seen much progress on this front.
“When I first started, more than half of the suppliers couldn’t answer our environmental questions; but now more suppliers are able to answer those questions, and more have products that are environmentally preferable,” Sutherland said.
To this end, Practice Greenhealth, which counts in its membership one of every five hospitals in the U.S., as well five of the largest healthcare Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs), offers members tools, resources, and data to achieve their goals. Within its Greening the Supply Chain initiative, there’s a new EPP business leadership coalition, of which Johnson & Johnson is a member, and a new standardized environmental questionnaire for medical products that GPOs and IDNs can use, so that more RFPs are using the same language, making it easier for suppliers to comply. “One thing that was frustrating for suppliers was that each GPO was asking for something slightly different. This ensures consistent phrasing to streamline the process of filling out multiple RFPs.”
Practice Greenhealth members can access its Sustainability Benchmark Report that provides comprehensive data illustrating the progress of sustainability within hospital facilities; they can also access the extensive webinar series that addresses such topics as trends in sustainability, greening the OR, avoiding greenwashing, and many others. All webinars are archived, so they can be viewed live on the day they are offered, or any time from the archives.
As the healthcare industry focuses more on carbon monoxide and greenhouse gas reduction, Practice Greenhealth launched the Energy Impact Calculator, which provides data that links energy use to human health. In addition, the Greenhealth Sustainability Dashboard is an environmental data tracking tool that hospitals and businesses can use to track their progress in a wide variety of sustainability metrics. The aim is to help healthcare companies and providers make smarter business decisions.
“A lot of hospitals want to purchase green products—ones with lower environmental impact—and suppliers are really listening,” Sutherland said.
Sr. Product Director Sustainable Brand Marketing
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