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Greening the Healthcare Supply Chain with Sustainable Purchasing

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By Al Iannuzzi Sr. Director Product Stewardship, WW Environment, Health & Safety

Having recently returned from the CleanMed conference in Denver, Colorado, I’m gratified by the growing number of hospitals and healthcare suppliers in the United States that are determined to work toward a greener supply chain. Although this is our first year as the international sponsor, Johnson & Johnson has sponsored CleanMed for four years because we are committed to helping drive sustainable practices in healthcare.

At the conference, leaders in healthcare sustainability came together to discuss the future of green healthcare and look for ways to reduce waste and curb carbon emissions. Sessions covered green building and design, waste management, reducing energy consumption, sustainable hospital food services, and greening the supply chain. You can read a recap of the conference at this link.

One essential element to this is sustainable product development. I was invited to share my experience and expertise in this by presenting in the Greener Product Innovation & Solutions for Healthcare Facilities session, along with Kimberly Clark's David Spitzley. While I presented the Johnson & Johnson Earthwards® proprietary process, Spitzley discussed Kimberly Clark's EcoLogical process for product lifecycle analysis. Both are being used to create greener products by taking a more holistic view of their environmental impact.

Johnson & Johnson’s Earthwards® process, developed in 2009, recognizes the numerous ways a product has helped reduce environmental impact, using a 4-step evaluation scorecard. 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. To date, 29 products have earned this recognition, which is nearly halfway toward the Johnson & Johnson Healthy Future 2015 goal of 60 products. And our timing couldn't have been better, as there’s greater demand for sustainable healthcare products.

“A lot of hospitals want to purchase green products—ones with lower environmental impact—and suppliers are really listening,” said Lara Sutherland during a discussion at the CleanMed conference. Lara is an expert in sustainable product purchasing who serves as Director of Business Membership for Practice Greenhealth. Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading membership organization dedicated to sustainable healthcare, co-hosted the CleanMed conference, along with Health Care Without Harm, while Johnson & Johnson stepped up as its first international sponsor.

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 majority of respondents (54%) rated the impact of “green” on purchasing decisions for health care products and supplies—specifically, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and diagnostics—an 8 or higher on a 10-point scale.

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 also found Johnson & Johnson is the highest rated company globally among customer perceptions of top manufacturers and their level of sustainability, with 45% of respondents rating us an 8 or higher.

This work is important because it helps deliver on the commitment in Our Credo to protect our environment and natural resources. Our customers expect us to provide them with environmentally-preferable product offerings that align with their values. Our Earthwards® process is one of the ways we address these demands for more sustainable and innovative healthcare products.

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