Why Providence made a bold carbon-negative pledge.

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Innovating for the future | Environmental stewardship

Globally, hospitals and health care systems are among the most intensive consumers of energy and in the U.S. contribute more than 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. This reality needs to change, so Providence has responded with a pledge to become carbon negative by 2030. By making the first such pledge in the country, we are leading the movement for greater energy efficiency in health care. We know this vital work will also benefit our patients and our communities, who live with the effects of climate change, including wildfires, floods and weather extremes. 

To ensure we’re taking meaningful steps to reach our climate pledge, we established goals that are integrated into our strategic plan, created a robust measurement system, and set executive performance metrics. In keeping with our vision of health for a better world, we’re also evaluating environmental health risks in the communities and regions we serve.

Measuring impact through our WE ACT scorecard

Being the first to set a carbon negative goal, we didn’t have a blueprint, but we started with goals and measurements. Our experts started by creating the WE ACT framework, which stands for: waste, energy/water, agriculture/food, chemicals, and transportation. A clear set of goals are measured using a companion scorecard database to track multiple carbon reduction tactics in our large system. Developed by the Providence Global Center, the scorecard gives us an accurate understanding of our impact, and since late 2020, our experts at the center have transformed it into a complex database tracking a growing monthly list of resource categories, costs, and carbon emissions for each acute site.

Our WE ACT framework goals and measures guide our work to reduce our environmental impact. We use a scalable database to accurately monitor progress across our 52 hospitals, nearly 900 clinics and many more buildings situated in seven states.

With our bold commitment to reducing our environmental impact, this scalable database allows us to effectively monitor our progress across our diverse footprint of buildings and operations. It’s essential to accurately track data for our 52 hospitals, nearly 900 clinics, long-term care facilities, multiple housing locations, our university and high school, and many other buildings.

Learn more in our environmental stewardship report.

Partnering for efficient energy in a major Seattle neighborhood

In December 2021, Swedish announced a partnership with Creative Energy, a leader in building efficient energy systems, to decarbonize its flagship campus. The partnership will ensure a sustainable, carbon-negative, and energy-efficient future for one of the city’s largest hospitals.

Working with Creative Energy, Swedish will modernize the infrastructure of the First Hill campus to reduce waste by capturing excess heat, which can be used to heat its facilities without consuming additional energy. Thermal storage will also allow off-cycle cooling and improve our ability to manage the temperatures in several facilities. 

“We intend to eliminate more than 9,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually at the Swedish First Hill campus alone, which is the equivalent of removing 1,800 cars from the road each year.”  - Mike Denney, chief real estate officer, Swedish

“Swedish is extremely proud to partner with Creative Energy to implement innovative solutions that will allow us to reduce the amount of energy and water we use to heat and cool our hospitals,” Chief Real Estate Officer Mike Denney said. “We intend to eliminate more than 9,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually at the Swedish First Hill campus alone, which is the equivalent of removing 1,800 cars from the road each year.” 

Lowering greenhouse gas emissions in surgical services

A significant amount of the waste produced, chemicals used, and energy consumed in a hospital occur in the procedural areas, such as surgery suites. An example is anesthetic agents, some of which are potent greenhouse gases. In response, a Providence anesthesiologist based in Oregon shared data with providers about anesthetic agents with lower greenhouse gas emissions that maintain patient safety and quality. With support from our environmental stewardship team, he encouraged anesthetic providers across the Providence system to choose these agents, resulting in a 70 percent reduction in anesthetic greenhouse gas emissions. Cost savings of $3.5 million annually is reinvested in patient care.

A Providence anesthesiologist encouraged his colleagues across our family of organizations to use anesthetic agents with lower greenhouse gas impact, resulting in a systemwide 70 percent reduction in these emissions during procedures.

At a hospital in Portland, surgical clinicians decided to reduce the number of supplies that were discarded after a surgical case. Historically, surgical staff equips each procedure with a carefully pre-packaged kit so that the right tools are always at hand. Nearly everything in the kits is discarded after a procedure, even if not used, which has led to considerable waste. This team evaluated records to identify what was actually used during procedures and compared that data to what was included in a surgical supply kit. Without compromising patient safety, they were able to reduce redundant supplies and also save $1.5 million in one year, which is reinvested to meet care needs. These innovative leaders are piloting the method they developed across Oregon, and then will scale this solution across our family of organizations.

Medical supply recovery redistributes usable supplies

To reduce unnecessary waste in our facilities, Providence has operated a medical surplus recovery operation program since 1989 that redistributes usable surplus products that have not expired. In 2021, our MSRO made pandemic-related donations across the U.S. and overseas to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, personal protective equipment was not seen often by the MSRO team. However, due to disruptions in the supply chain and increased demand, it is now one of the most sought-after surplus items.

Providence has operated a medical surplus recovery operation since 1989. As of October 2021, our MSRO had distributed about 190 tons of usable PPE, including nearly 12 tons to schools around the U.S.

In April of 2021, Providence responded to this need and began distribution of PPE beyond our own system for the first time, with no charge to recipients for the supplies. As of October 2021, Providence has distributed about 190 tons of PPE supplies valued at about $20 million for use at home in the U.S. and in hospitals and clinics around the world. Included were nearly 12 tons sent to schools around the U.S. Other international donations included 66 tons of supplies and equipment sent to 17 countries.

Dedicated supply chain caregivers persevered even when our system was most strained and demand for PPE was off the charts. Their commitment was grounded in understanding the desperate need for these medical supplies and the added benefit of reducing waste.

Our vision to create health for a better world extends to how we care for the environment and respond to the climate crisis that the World Health Organization has called the “single biggest health threat facing humanity.” By investing in environmental stewardship, we can have an immediate impact on the health and well-being of our patients and communities, and also create more sustainable practices that ultimately improve the health of our shared home, the Earth.

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