Stanford Health Care earns Joint Commission’s Sustainable Healthcare certification

Stanford Health Care is among the first health care organizations in the nation to receive the certification, which celebrates its progress toward reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.

Stanford Health Care is one of the first hospitals in the nation to receive a sustainability certification from The Joint Commission.
Emily Moskal

The Joint Commission has issued a Sustainable Healthcare certification to Stanford Health Care, one of the first systems in the country to achieve the honor.

The Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. health care organizations, established  the Sustainable Healthcare certificate this year to recognize organizations that have demonstrated progress in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.

“We are proud to be recognized by The Joint Commission as a national leader in championing environmental sustainability in health care delivery,” said David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care. “Climate change presents ongoing challenges to the health of communities around the globe. At Stanford Health Care, we are committed to reducing our own carbon footprint and partnering across the health care sector to innovate greener practices for the benefit our patients, communities, and the planet we share.”

Health care has an important role to play in the fight against climate change, as its emissions make up 8.5% of the United States’ total amount. Hospitals also consume tremendous amounts of energy, and health care ranks near the top for waste generation, at 5.9 million tons annually.

 “The health of our patients and communities — particularly the most vulnerable — is intertwined with the health of our planet,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs at Stanford University. “To advance our mission of improving human health, it is imperative that we continue to collaborate with researchers around the globe to meet the daunting challenges of the climate crisis head on. While much work remains, I am proud of Stanford Medicine’s accomplishments and look forward to continuing our university’s and health system’s momentum in this domain.”

Stanford Health Care’s Sustainability Program Office has established four sustainability goals:

  • Reducing energy use in buildings by 25% by 2030
  • Diverting 90% of waste sent to landfills through recycling, composting, reusing or limiting waste by 2030
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030
  • Eliminating 90% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
     

These goals align with the Department of Health and Human Services Climate Pledge that the organization signed in 2022.

Stanford Health Care clinicians play a leading role as sustainability champions, collaborating with infection prevention teams and building engineers to save energy and prevent waste.

In 2023, two medical directors of sustainability were established: Paige Fox, MD, PhD, associate professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and Praveen Kalra, MD, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine, are charged with implementing changes within the clinical environment. Fox is working on reducing waste of unused medical supplies, and Kalra is championing the change from centrally piped nitrous oxide to portable cylinders, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to nitrous oxide by 90%.

In 2023, the organization established a Sustainability in Nursing fellowship program. The first five fellows tackled projects such as reducing supplies that are thrown away unused, promoting sustainable commuting, and switching to reusable items rather than disposables.

“Energy efficiency and emissions reductions are linked,” said Helen Wilmot, chief facilities and sustainability officer. “To accomplish these goals, Stanford Health Care structures its efforts around utility management, energy efficiency and decarbonization, and new building design in order to have the biggest impact. We have decreased our energy use intensity by 9.1% since 2021 and are on track to reducing it 25% by 2030.”

The Joint Commission certification comes on the heels of another achievement for sustainability programs at Stanford Medicine: In 2024, Practice Greenhealth awarded Stanford Health Care and Stanford Medicine Children’s Health the Environmental Excellence Emerald Award; it also awarded Stanford Health Care Tri-Valley the Partners for Change Award.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit med.stanford.edu.

2024 ISSUE 1

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