4 Ways to Drive Transformational Change in Sustainability

4 Ways to Drive Transformational Change in Sustainability. A plant growing in a green field is surrounded by a bubble label with carbon dioxide CO2 down.

Like a growing number of health care organizations, New Jersey’s Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) system has been on a journey for some time now to reduce its environmental impact and boost sustainability practices.

Recent achievements include:

  • Investing more than $116 million in energy-efficient upgrades.
  • Purchasing 99% of furnishings free of harmful chemicals.
  • Ensuring that all the electronics it purchased in 2022 were EPEAT [Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool]-certified, meaning that they meet environmental compliance criteria that address issues like materials selection, supply chain greenhouse gas-emissions reduction and energy conservation.
  • Saving more than $1.7 million by reprocessing medical devices, thereby diverting 40,000 pounds of medical device waste from landfills.

Decarbonization efforts like these helped four HMH hospitals to be the first in the country to achieve The Joint Commission’s Sustainable Healthcare Certification earlier this month.

Confronting a Global Imperative

Sustainability programs like that of HMH were once seen as an add-on to hospital operations and health care delivery. Today they are an operational priority as health care organizations confront climate change and work to reduce its impact on patients, employees and communities.

The recently released AHA-American Society for Health Care Engineering’s Health Care Leader’s Guide to Sustainability and Decarbonization spells out the challenge facing the field.

The U.S. health care sector is responsible for 25% of global health care emissions and 80% of emissions in this sector come from goods and services in the supply chain, the report states, adding that hospitals should view sustainability as a means to protect human health.

4 Ways CEOs Can Drive Transformational Change

1 | Drive leadership from the top.

The complexities of health systems require top-down leadership and creative problem-solving from the bottom up to increase value.


Make sustainability transformation an organizational goal. Acknowledge that sustainable hospitals offer unique benefits to their surrounding communities. Engage your board of directors and document the value of sustainability practices. Be clear that this is an executive priority and long-term commitment.

2 | Identify internal leaders and allocate the resources needed for success.

Engage and empower all employees to improve sustainability. Work internally with departmental leaders to build new relationships focused on reducing waste and increasing value.


Frame sustainability within a growth context; embrace current challenges and seek innovative solutions. Engage your suppliers in the conversation. This work requires partnerships; no individual can get all of this work done, Kyle Tafuri, HMH’s vice president of sustainability, said in a recent interview. Not all suppliers will be willing to dive in, but they will discuss the issue. The goal is to start the conversation and work together.

3 | Report your progress consistently.

Communicate initiatives and progress regularly to your community and the sector.


Show the value you’re creating through your actions. Recognize the functional roles for leadership and innovation. Collaborate with other CEOs to share successes and overcome obstacles.

4 | Take advantage of federal funding to support your efforts.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 allocated $369 billion to support clean energy efficiency and clean energy projects.


The funds provide a combination of financial incentives for investments that ultimately may reduce pollution, expand clean energy production and address health inequities, with bonus credits for investments located in low-income communities and other census tracts, notes a recent report from The Commonwealth Fund and Deloitte.

Learn More

The AHA’s Sustainability Roadmap for Health Care website provides a wealth of resources to support your organization’s journey. It addresses operations, procurement, purchasing, maintenance and new models of care, including how to kick-start your hospital’s sustainability efforts, a Sustainability Accelerator Tool, how to engage teams and build a sustainability culture through the HealQuest program and more.

A recent AHA Market Scan Trailblazers report, “Streamlining Supply Chain Practices as Health Systems Expand,” examines how some health systems are standardizing operations, reducing redundancy and increasing operational efficiency.

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