Hôpitaux universitaires de Genève (HUG) – Gold Award Winner of the Corporate Social Responsibility Award 2022

Date:  16 June 2023

Shaping the sustainable hospital of tomorrow: elaborating a sustainability strategy with the hospital’s stakeholders

Large healthcare institutions often have a significant ecological footprint. Providing care to thousands of patients can be extremely resource-intensive and sustainability might not be a core priority in most hospital settings.

At the Geneva University Hospital (HUG), the Hospital Executive Board quickly identified the need to develop and implement sustainable actions to address this priority. Over the years, the hospital had pioneered various efforts to improve sustainability in its operations and processes, fully aware of the environmental impacts of the healthcare sector. Although these efforts were numerous and innovative, there were mostly developed in an isolated an uncoordinated approach.

The HUG decided to create an institutional strategy to promote sustainability across the entire range of the hospital’s operations.

“The ultimate goal is to shape a sustainable hospital with the underlying objectives to reduce climate and environmental impact while improving its contribution to the community and staff.”

Bertrand Levrat, Chief Operating Officer of the HUG.

“As the CEO of the largest university hospital in Switzerland, I feel responsible for implementing sustainable practices as they improve the lives of the patients who come to the HUG and the lives of those who care for them.”

An institutional effort

The HUG spanned the entirety of its operations to minimize the hospital’s carbon footprint. For instance, 100% of the hospital’s electricity has been derived from renewable sources for more than 10 years, while over half of its vehicle fleet is now electrical. Almost half of the hospital’s waste is entirely recycled, and in 2021, the HUG became the first hospital in Switzerland to implement a chemical-free floor cleaning technique.

When it comes to serving meals, 90% of the fresh vegetables included in the 3.4 million meals prepared each year are from Switzerland and 40% are sourced from within the Geneva area. Main ingredients such as potatoes, yoghurt, plain flour, beef, pork and veal, all originate from Switzerland, while a quarter of the main course served to patients and staff is vegetarian.

Even the HUG’s employees contribute to this institutional endeavour as half of them are eco-commuters. In May 2022, the hospital joined the Bike-to-Work challenge with 800 employees participating in and cumulatively cycled more than four times the earth’s circumference, saving 25 tons of CO2 in one month.

Delivering a sustainability strategy

This massive endeavour required collecting inputs across all levels of the hospital operations and more widely across Geneva. To build its strategy, the HUG launched a participative consultation involving all its stakeholders. In total, 522 people actively involved themselves in this participative process. Their contributions generated 7,461 votes, 158 comments and 152 tangible propositions, which all strengthened the hospital sustainability strategy and action plan.

“A hospital can be a very complex environment and the expertise of its staff is extremely valuable to identify the most effective actions,” Mr Levrat said. “The idea was to engage them in the creation and development process and empower them while increasing their awareness of these issues,” he added.

This collaborative process behind the HUG’s pioneering strategy could be easily replicated in other hospitals. Joining forces with other institutions is key to having a profound impact on the transition to a more sustainable health system. The HUG co-launched with another Swiss hospital in 2021, a sustainability working group which includes the five Swiss university hospitals in order to share experiences and knowledge as well as to discuss objectives. The HUG also aims to expand this partnership to all regional hospitals, even those beyond national borders.

The HUG is a leading national and international academic institution, bringing together ten public hospital sites. It is the most important university hospital in Switzerland as it provides care to over half a million people. It is also the largest employer in the Geneva region.

Submit entries now!

The IHF Awards 2023 is accepting entries across 7 categories until 30 June 2023

Written by:

IHF Secretariat

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