South San Francisco, CA May 17, 2016 Submitted by Joe Fragola, Kaiser Permanente
Already a global leader in climate action, organization sets in motion its most ambitious plan ever for a healthier future
Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest integrated health system, today announced new and ambitious environmental goals for the year 2025 that include becoming carbon positive, buying only sustainably produced food and sending zero waste to landfills.
The new long-term goals build on the health care organization’s longstanding environmental-stewardship commitment, and will further align its business practices with its purpose of helping people and communities thrive.
Kaiser Permanente pledges that by 2025 it will:
· Become “carbon net positive” by buying enough clean energy and carbon offsets to remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it emits.
· Buy all of its food locally or from farms and producers that use sustainable practices, including using antibiotics responsibly.
· Recycle, reuse or compost 100 percent of its non-hazardous waste.
· Reduce the amount of water it uses by 25 percent per square foot of buildings.
· Increase its purchase of products and materials that meet environmental standards to 50 percent.
· Meet international standards for environmental management at all its hospitals.
· Pursue new collaborations to reduce environmental risks to the foodsheds, watersheds and air basins supplying its communities.
All of these goals will be achieved through strategies that support both health and affordability.
“At Kaiser Permanente, we know what creates good health begins well beyond our own doors,” said Raymond Baxter, PhD, senior vice president of community benefit, research and health policy. “Our aim with these new goals is to go beyond eliminating our own environmental impact to help restore, renew and revitalize our communities.”
To achieve its 2025 goals, Kaiser Permanente must create new strategies in operations, investments, grant making, public policy, research, and community collaborations. But without a no-holds-barred approach to creating sustainable business practices for itself and championing the cause within health care and related industries, Kaiser Permanente cannot expect to stem the relentless pace of climate change and its significant threat to human health.
In the past decade, asthma rates among children have steadily increased, obesity has become an epidemic in much of the world, and the planet has seen the rise of superbugs and other antibiotic-resistant diseases such as MRSA. If business continues as usual, the next 10 years threaten to rapidly undermine advances in public health through increases in injuries and death from extreme heat and weather events, spread of infectious diseases and mosquito-borne illnesses, food and water shortages, and worsening allergy and asthma conditions, among other health risks. Low-income communities, the elderly and other vulnerable populations will be the most at risk.
“Climate change is an equity issue,” Baxter said. “Those who will suffer most are those in communities that do not have resources to withstand climate-related stressors. As part of our commitment to health, we will continue to advance our contributions to a healthy environment.”
Kaiser Permanente has always considered protecting the environment a natural extension of its mission to improve community health. It already has proven that it can improve and expand its health care services while reducing its environmental impact. It is one of the top users of solar power in the U.S. and has a long history of working with manufacturers to remove harmful chemicals from the products it purchases and to make healthier products more widely available to consumers.
Gary Cohen, president of Health Care Without Harm and a 2015 MacArthur fellow for his environmental health advocacy, credits Kaiser Permanente for its leadership in embracing climate action as part of its commitment to community health.
“Kaiser Permanente has led by example and has been an important partner in creating a social movement inside of health care on climate action and environmental health,” Cohen said. “Its willingness to collaborate and build partnerships has enhanced the environmental performance of the entire sector.”
Kaiser Permanente’s 2025 goals express its ambitious vision for the future. To accomplish the goals, its leaders will develop yearly plans with annual targets and multiyear milestones with which to measure performance and progress.
Kathy Gerwig, the organization’s environmental stewardship officer, is confident in the organization’s ability to achieve its goals.
“We have adopted ambitious environmental stewardship goals in the past and worked together amid oftentimes complex and changing dynamics to meet or exceed them,” Gerwig said.
For example, the organization pledged in 2012 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020. With several major renewable energy projects scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, Kaiser Permanente expects to reach its goal by 2017 – three years ahead of schedule.
“We have learned that with an inspiring vision for the future, we can tap into the creativity and enthusiasm of our organization,” Gerwig said. “Our 2025 goals define an even more striking future that inspires us and can raise the performance of the private sector and broader economy in the U.S. and globally.”