Sustainability in healthcare facilities: Status quo and future challenges
As hospitals contribute to enabling all people to live as healthy a life as possible and to promote their well-being, they fulfill the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal "Health and Well-being" per se . However, as shown in the article "CO2 emissions in the healthcare system", emissions of climate-damaging gases in the healthcare sector are significant, accounting for a total of 4.4% of global emissions . Therefore, in order to mitigate climate change, hospitals will also be required to become significantly more sustainable in the future. Currently, one in two hospitals has already established sustainability as a corporate goal, but so far only one in four hospitals is planning specific sustainability measures . However, as the legal requirements will soon change, a rethink is imminent.
What are the regulatory challenges facing large facilities starting in 2025?
According to the new EU directive on Corporate Sustainability Reporting (CSRD), all European companies with more than 500 employees and more than 40 million euros in sales will have to collect their greenhouse gas footprint from 2026 onwards for the financial year 2025 in order to prepare an annual sustainability report . Since quite a few healthcare facilities meet these requirements, they will also have to deal with data collection and reporting. In order not to lose the overview or even bury one's head in the sand, background knowledge on the obligations of hospitals and the required contents of the reports is helpful.
What areas need to be reported on?
In order to determine one's own greenhouse gas footprint, to be able to report on it and to develop a sustainability strategy, the first step is to categorize the various areas in which greenhouse gases are produced directly or indirectly. The standard for this is the so-called “Greenhouse Gas (GHG) protocol, which divides emissions into three scopes . While Scope 1 only includes direct emissions from the hospital's own combustion – e.g., from gasoline for the ambulances – Scope 2 includes indirect emissions from the purchase of grid-based energy for heating or electricity. Scope 3 includes other indirect emissions from processes caused, for example, by purchased medical products and consumables. Although Scope 3 typically accounts for the largest share of the carbon footprint - approximately 60% of total emissions in healthcare  - these emissions are also the most difficult to measure and must be partially estimated. While the GHG Protocol considers the reporting of Scope 3 emissions optional due to overlap with other companies, the most significant Scope 3 emissions for each company should be reported according to the CSRD [4, 5].