The growing emphasis on sustainability in healthcare is a direct response to the 8.5% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions caused by the healthcare sector. The push is voluntary – for the moment – but is all but ensured to gain momentum. The White House and HHS have already launched the Health Sector Climate Pledge and The Joint Commission is now offering Sustainable Healthcare Certification. This gives a window of opportunity to savvy health systems and healthcare vendors who take responsibility for their emissions early. So how can you use carbon footprinting in healthcare marketing?

White House Health Sector Climate Pledge

The Health Sector Climate Pledge is a voluntary commitment taken by healthcare facilities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. As of November 16, 2023, 900 hospitals have signed the pledge. In addition, a wide range of groups in the healthcare sector, from pharmaceutical companies to suppliers have also taken the pledge. This is a laudable goal but, to achieve it, each of those groups is going to have to start tracking their greenhouse gas emissions – not only from their direct use, but also usage from their vendors.

The Joint Commission Sustainable Healthcare Certification

The Sustainable Healthcare Certification is also voluntary but, when The Joint Commission gets behind something, it indicates a shift worth paying attention to. In this case, the goal is for hospitals to collect baseline data on three sources of greenhouse gas emissions and create a plan to reduce them.

Carbon Footprinting vs. Life Cycle Assessment

There are two main tools used to help organizations track environmental impact. The first is carbon footprinting, which focuses entirely on tracking greenhouse gas emissions. The second is life cycle assessment (LCA), which can track multiple environmental criteria from collection of raw materials through production to recycling or disposal. Of the two, LCA is more complete but carbon footprinting is the immediate focus of both the pledge and the certification.

Scope 1, 2, and 3

Carbon footprinting encompasses three categories. Scope 1 refers to the direct emissions caused by the organization, such as gas leaks from anesthesia. Scope 2 refers to indirect emissions, such as electricity used to run the hospital. And Scope 3 are indirect emissions caused by third parties, such as medical device manufacturers and SaaS vendors. Scope 3 emissions are the most difficult to track for health systems, as it requires data from their vendors.

Healthcare Marketing Opportunity

The difficulty hospitals have in determining Scope 3 emissions gives healthcare vendors who provide that data an edge. As more and more hospitals take the Climate Pledge or seek Sustainable Healthcare Certification, the more important it is going to be to have emissions data from vendors. From a marketing perspective, it is easy to see how, if two vendors are competing for a hospital client, the one who can provide greenhouse gas emissions data has a leg up on becoming the vendor of choice.

Added Benefits of Carbon Footprinting in Healthcare Marketing

Healthcare vendors, whether medical device manufacturers or technology platforms, now have an opportunity to stand out in the marketplace by providing emissions data. Even better, they will learn a lot about their environmental impact in the process and can use that data to make substantive reductions in their own greenhouse gas emissions.

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