The European healthcare sector, with its 2.8 million hospital beds and 12,990 hospitals, is a major public purchaser of goods and services. In the process of treating patients, the healthcare sector consumes an enormous amount of energy and water, as well as disposable products, building materials, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. All of which can be toxic to workers and patients, or have serious environmental impacts.
In addition to the environmental and health impact, there is increasing evidence that the global supply chain of healthcare commodities infringe, in some cases, on the basic labour and human rights of the workers that produce them, often located in low income countries, affecting their health as a result of unsafe and indecent working conditions.
Sustainable Procurement is the practice by which authorities, including hospitals and health systems, address green and social/ethical considerations in purchasing practices. By implementing sustainable procurement strategies, such as applying green and social criteria to tendering processes, hospitals can improve their environmental footprint and become socially responsible, as well as managing their way towards long-term change.
Three elements are important for hospitals to succeed in sustainable procurement: a strong regulatory framework, leadership form the hospitals management and culture. The hospitals’ managers or the public authorities responsible for procuring the hospitals should be empowered to carry out sustainable procurement policies by strong legislation, leadership and the right culture, to introduce environmental and social criteria into the purchasing process.