Recently, sustainability experts and advocates gathered in Oxford, U.K. for the 2013 CleanMed Europe Conference. CleanMed Europe is the only European conference focused solely on sustainability within the healthcare sector and addresses the environmental impact of the sector on a local, regional, and global level. This conference was a great venue for sharing sustainability best practices in the healthcare industry and was a forum for forward-thinking and thought provoking discussions. Johnson & Johnson is an industry leader in not only healthcare, but also sustainability and was a Gold Sponsor for CleanMed Europe. Through its Healthy Future 2015 goals, Johnson & Johnson has committed to a number of significant citizenship and sustainability initiatives such as reducing its carbon footprint, creating more sustainable health care products through the EARTHWARDS® process, and increasing access to medicine.
One of the compelling aspects of CleanMed Europe was the participation of physicians in the sustainability discussion. It was great to see physicians making the link between reducing the environmental impact of healthcare and improved public health. These physicians are an incredibly important stakeholder for incorporating sustainability into the healthcare system because they are influential in advocating for more sustainable products and practices.
It was clear at this year’s CleanMed conference that stakeholders need to generate and analyse considerable data to make compelling claims in favor of more sustainable practices. This supports one of the key take-homes of the conference which was that reducing carbon footprints, eliminating chemicals of concern and saving energy are great beginnings to a sustainable healthcare industry, but that the larger medical community needs to embrace the idea. An unsustainable healthcare system cannot continually deliver quality care.
Sustainability touches healthcare at many different levels throughout the healthcare industry from the supply of products and materials to the power that runs the lights in the hospital. As resources become increasingly scarce, sustainability will be critical to maintaining a high level of care in the healthcare industry. The CleanMed conference offered attendees opportunities to identify key sustainability challenges and to consider ways to address them moving forward.
Michael Johnson is a Product Sustainability Co-op in EHS&S working on EARTHWARDS® and environmental risk assessments. Michael is currently a PhD Student at Rutgers New Brunswick studying algal biofuels and is a National Science Foundation Biofuels Fellow.