A Few Notes about This Blog

This blog shares my insights on the design, introduction and active management of effective sustainability programs in hospital settings. Unlike the thousands of discussions on sustainability's altruistic, conceptual and technical aspects, though, this blog approaches the discipline from organizational management and development perspectives.

Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion in the trade media around the American Hospital Association's new "Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals," which complements the association's excellent work in its recent "Executive Primer on Hospital Environmental Sustainability." (

With the AHA - as well as Practice Greenhealth, Healthcare without Harm and other organizations - staking authoritative claims to the topic, why do I think it necessary to add my two cents? Here's why. The AHA executive primer covers several of the big concepts any good sustainability program should have. Further, its roadmap details many of the high-level steps needed to create and run it. However, neither will be able to adequately explore institution-specific details for successful organizational design, change management and program effectiveness.

That's not a failing of AHA's superlative work; it is simply recognition that when it comes to management programs, such as sustainability, one size does not fit all. Each hospital needs to custom design its own sustainability program to meet its specific needs, including working within its resource limits and opportunities. Helping you and your institution work through the details is where this blog comes in.

The first few blog posts address basic concepts, including the special challenges healthcare delivery organizations face whenever they create new performance capabilities. After that the discussion will shift to the key questions a hospital – or, any other organization for that matter – must answer in creating and running a sustainability program and, by extension, an all-encompassing corporate social responsibility program. Then, the discussions dive into the "how-to-do-it" details with a big emphasis on anticipating and controlling obstructions to success.

Rather than prescribe rigid off-the-shelf methods that may have worked well elsewhere – yet, might not work so well at your hospital – these discussions will pose key questions that must be answered by the best minds at all levels of your institution to create a customized program.

This blog is a serialized body of work. So, if this is your first visit, I highly recommend that you start with the oldest post date and work forward from there. The entries will make a lot more sense that way.

For those of you who work in other industries, substitute the words "hospital" and "healthcare" used throughout the posts with the name of your industry or company. You'll probably find the information in this blog fits your field and organization quite well.

Lastly, if you are a sustainability professional, I would be honored if you sign-up to follow this blog and share it with your colleagues. Also, please feel free to share your views and experiences.

Thank you for stopping by.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Quick Summation Before Diving into the Details

Before making a "go" decision on creating a sustainability program, the board of directors, the C-level officers and other leaders must thoroughly understand that going green means achieving break-through performance in the:

• Management of sustainability and other CSR risks, including compliance with regulations and industry standards

• Reduction of sustainability- and CSR-related costs

• Creation of new green revenue streams, and

• Leveraging of greenwash-free competitive advantages through transparency.

Breakthrough performance is a tough proposition. It means that the status quo is no longer acceptable; only significant progress toward ideal performance is. As a result, people must stop doing many of the things that make up their professional and emotional comfort zones. Then, they have to start doing new things that are completely outside their skill sets.

That is scary! People work long and hard to figure out how to get through each workday competently with the least hassle. Once they reach their comfort zone, many will fight like wet, cornered cats to prevent anyone from messing-up their work lives. Is there any wonder why so many people react to organization changes as evil incarnate?

So, assuming that all of this talk about change doesn't scare them off, senior leadership must create and effectively run a program that enables all functions and units in the hospital to identify, prioritize and respond effectively to their most-pressing sustainability needs. Further – and this is critical – it must do these things within the context of all of the hospital's other most-pressing needs.

With a little experience running a comprehensive sustainability program, some refinements and good documented outcomes, a hospital could seriously pursue ISO 14000 environmental management system certification. However, don't jump-the-gun to prematurely chase after another plaque for the lobby walls. The certification process consumes large amounts of organizational resources that can be better used initially to make significant sustainability improvements at your hospital.  ISO14000 certification should come much, much later when there is at last a well-functioning program.

The approach described in this blog is a far cry from impetuously forming a few green committees to do ill-defined green things.  Rather, it is a systematic approach that not only achieves important environmental quality goals, but also benefits patients and other stakeholders while financially strengthening the hospital.  As such, you, the leaders and staff may find it worth the effort.

IN THE NEXT POST:  Formally Making the Programmatic Go-Decision and Setting the Hospital's Sustainability Policy