A recap of the first Providence Environmental Stewardship report

[4 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • At Providence, we know that to improve the health of all our patients, we must improve the environmental conditions harming our planet.

  • We’ve published our first Environmental Stewardship Report. It summarizes our progress towards becoming carbon negative by 2030.

  • Our Director of Environmental Stewardship talks more about the report and health care’s responsibility to help combat climate change. 

According to the World Health Organization, climate change is the greatest threat to public health. At Providence, we believe in our mission of creating health for a better world. And to us, health care extends beyond the walls of our hospitals. We know that to improve the health of all our patients, we must improve the environmental conditions harming our planet.

In April 2020, we announced our climate pledge to become carbon negative by 2030. This means we plan to remove or offset more carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) from the atmosphere than we emit. It’s a large undertaking. But we’re excited to lead the health care sector in sustainability efforts.

We’ve been hard at work, collecting data, understanding our current habits and making plans to achieve our goals. And to prove it, we’ve compiled our efforts into our first Environmental Stewardship Report.

What’s in the report

Our Environmental Stewardship Report tells our sustainability story – one we’ve been working on for decades. It takes a deep dive into the work we’ve done since announcing our climate goal.

We collected data from all 52 hospitals, over 1,000 medical office buildings, and multiple businesses, using our comprehensive WE ACT Scorecard framework. WE ACT focuses our carbon emissions and optimization plan around:

In the report, we highlight some of our progress since announcing our ambitious goal in 2020. We share innovative work and areas where we can improve. We also discuss topics, such as:

  • How we plan to use data analytics to prepare for extreme weather events in the future.
  • The impacts of climate change in places like Guatemala.
  • Who we’re partnering with to help address climate change.

The report tells us where we are now, where we want to go and how we will succeed.

Read the full Environmental Stewardship Report

Why we’re focused on the environment

To learn more about the background of the report and Providence’s commitment to fighting climate change, we spoke with Beth Schenk, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, Director of Environmental Stewardship at Providence.

Q: Why should the health care sector care about the environment?

A: Health care has two key reasons to care about the health of the natural environment: 

1.     First, our environmental crisis is harming health. The climate crisis drives events that cause illness, can threaten homes and livelihoods, and cause stress, anxiety and depression from hardships.

2.     Second, health care is a significant polluter, and we are inadvertently making the problem worse. In the U.S., health care is responsible for 8.5% of the nation’s greenhouse gases each year. We use an enormous number of supplies and materials and create millions of pounds of waste. We have some of the most energy-intensive buildings in the nation. We serve millions of meals to patients and visitors each year and these result in waste and greenhouse gases. We use harsh chemicals that make their way to air, soil, and water. And we are responsible for transportation emissions as well, for business travel, delivery of supplies, and employee commuting.

Q: How is Providence responding and setting a standard for other health care organizations?

A: Providence works with many health systems across the nation, as well as governments, agencies, and professional groups. Many are working on similar challenges. Providence has staked a bold goal – to be carbon negative by 2030, ahead of other health care systems. Yet, we know that we cannot do this alone.

We need all of health care on board if we are to succeed. And we need our governments to help establish fossil fuel-free electricity and transportation infrastructure. We know that we cannot meet such a bold goal in isolation, so we are asking and inviting others to join. In this way, we hope we are raising the bar for health system performance regarding care of the environment.

Q: Why did Providence create the Environmental Stewardship Report?

A: This is Providence’s first Environmental Stewardship Report. We set our carbon negative goal two years ago and have been working hard to understand our carbon emissions and establish plans and programs to address them. Now, after collecting our first full year of data, we have a story to tell.

Q: Why should people care about the environmental goals at Providence?

A: More and more people across the globe are concerned about the environment. And they look to align their purchasing and health care decisions with organizational values. We are proud to be making a bold statement about the need to address our environmental crisis. We invite others to join us. We hope patients, families and future Providence caregivers are interested and supportive. We hope the work we are doing in a complex health system will be helpful to people working on environmental stewardship in other organizations or at home.

Thinking about the future

At Providence, we’re called by our mission to protect and care for all, especially the most vulnerable – including those most affected by climate change. We’re taking responsibility for our own negative contributions by responding to the impact of climate change across our communities. And we’re pivoting away from how we’ve traditionally done things, so we can help protect our planet for future generations.

We continue to work to engage all 120,000 caregivers across the seven states we serve to identify and implement meaningful solutions. We hope you find the 2021 Environmental Stewardship report informative and inspiring as WE ACT to achieve health for a better world.

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Join our efforts

Ready to join us? Learn more about Providence’s commitment to being good stewards of the environment and ways you can take small actions today to make a difference in the future. Consider donating to support our efforts.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

 

About the Author

Beth Schenk is the executive director of environmental stewardship for Providence, leading a cross-functional commitment to reduce operational pollution while addressing environmental justice and climate resilience in the communities we serve. Beth has been a Providence caregiver for over 30 years. From serving as an ICU nurse at St. Patrick in Missoula to leading nursing research across the Providence organization, Beth has nurtured her passion for environmental care. Her first successful recycling project was over 25 years ago. Since then she has led Montana’s award-winning Green 4 Good program. She co-founded Providence’s first regional environmental stewardship council. She has co-led a system-wide monthly meeting on environmental stewardship since 2008.

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