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Going green

April 27, 2009
by Ann Borders
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As ably illustrated in the March edition of Behavioral Healthcare (“Do You Leave the Lights On?” by Joseph Viger), organizational waste and inefficiency take many forms.

Recently, our board and staff completed a three-year plan for “going green.” The summary below is taken from the situational analysis that helped to drive our organization’s direction toward that end:

The DeloitteCenter for Health Solutions (www.deloitte.com) believes that there is a business case for “going green,” that health care organizations can achieve both business and social value through greening efforts, and that greening is congruent with the mission of health care organizations to improve the health and well-being of our communities. Greening is a long-term trend that will require every health care organization to invest strategically and programmatically to conserve natural resources and create a healthy environment for stakeholders, consumers, and employees. Health care provider greening initiatives must be framed against the day-to-day realities of pressures from payers and consumers to lower costs, the technologies and innovations in clinical care delivery systems requiring significant retraining of the workforce, and an onerous regulatory environment. Provider organizations who have greening initiatives report return on investments (ROI) between 25-40%. They have learned that going green can improve operating margins, free up resources to expand services and improve the overall quality of care.

Deloitte’s report states that there are four key focus areas that health regulators may use to encourage health care providers to accelerate their focus on a green agenda:

Ø Facility licensing and accreditation

Ø Transparency through reporting

Ø Green accountability through funding

Ø Collectively moving the green agenda forward

Across these four focus areas, regulators could exert considerable influence in shaping the green agenda throughout the U.S. health system. Greening is an organization-wide effort. There needs to be a system to track the quantitative and qualitative impact of environmental sustainability practices with an ability to support triple bottom-line reporting (economic, social, and environmental) on the organization’s financial statements.

Yes, we do have an initiative to turn off the lights. (We’ve attached to every light switch a picture of the planet, along with the words, “Help me, I’m melllllting. Please turn off the lights.”) And we’re working hard on technological solutions. But then there is also plain old waste. And good old fashioned inefficiency.

I doubt any organization is totally waste-free, but this administrator was jolted into reality several years ago. The epiphany began when our organizational purchasing position came open. Cathy Wagner, my administrative assistant, asked if she could take on that job in addition to her own. (How’s that for both organizational heroism?) After she’d been in the job a little over a year, we learned something staggering. Just by renegotiating with one vendor, Cathy was able to save more than $125,000/year on the cost of paper alone. I had no idea that we had been spending so foolishly.

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Yes, a very good post- and timely. However, I can't waste this opportunity to mention, even though it has no direct organizational fiancial impact, that, by far, the best thing anyone can do to support the planet is become a vegetarian. The environmental impact of eating meat is far greater than the benefit of any recycling program. Buying a hybrid doesn't hurt either.

Great post, Ann! In this economy every "green" dollar saved can translate into real budget savings. In our office, we are starting a recycling program. We won't receive any financial return, but we will be helping the planet. And this effort has helped build camraderie around the office, which is invalable in these hard times.

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Ann Borders

President and CEO, Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc

http://cumminsbhs.org/

Ann Borders is president and CEO of Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc., serving eight...