A group of healthcare workers have banded together to develop the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, which will transform the industry by tackling waste, energy consumption, supply chains and other major obstacles to sustainability. The group currently includes 500 hospitals throughout the U.S., but they are looking to draw at least another 2,000 hospitals to the cause in the next three years. As incentive, the sponsoring healthcare companies and organizations behind the initiative are offering an array of free resources to any hospital that wishes to pursue the initiative, including free registration.

As reported by GreenBiz.com, sustainable operations are core to the healthcare industry. The six focus areas of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative are:
• Engaging hospital and health care leadership on environmental health and sustainability
• Serving healthier foods and beverages
• Reducing energy use
• Reducing waste and increasing recycling
• Using safer chemicals
• Purchasing environmentally preferable products

The initiative has been under way for more than a year and its list of sponsors has grown since its founding. The prescription for sustainability announced this week and the rollout of resources mark the first major move by the effort.

Individually and in subsets of the larger group, several of the members have worked in recent years to bring more sustainable and environmentally responsible practices to health care. They include Kaiser, Dignity Health (previously branded as Catholic Healthcare West), Practice Greenhealth and Health Care Without Harm.

Among the healthcare systems, Kaiser has launched prominent efforts to design greener facilities, use renewable energy and revamp its vast supply chain. Kaiser estimates that its environmentally preferred purchasing program saves the organization $26 million a year. Dignity Health saved roughly $5.4 million in 2010 as a result of buying reusable rather than disposable products.

Such work, inspired in part by Walmart's efforts to retool its supply chain, is being taken up by others in the health care industry. Health care represents about 18 percent of the entire economy and the sponsors of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative are the end users in a $20 billion supply chain.

The Healthier Hospital Initiative plans to measure the environmental and financial impacts of the steps taken by hospitals that adopt the group's strategy.

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