Setting the wheels in motion for a green future
The new SHSC Green Plan sets out a vision for sustainability at the Trust. Ahead of its launch we look at the reasons for it and why it’s set to become a strategy we’ll all be reading (yes, you read that right).
Back in October 2020 the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to becoming ‘carbon net zero’ by 2040. It set out a vision to cut carbon emissions to protect health, not just in England but across the world.
That commitment linked the changing climate to negative health implications: Asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, Lyme’s disease to name a few, as well as mental health conditions like anxiety and stress. A broad point it made is that climate change is having a negative effect on health in many ways, and the NHS must treat the causes as well as the symptoms.
Fast forward nearly two years and new data from the Office for National Statistics shows that climate change is already having an impact, with increased hospital admissions in England a direct consequence. It’s clear that the time to act is now.
Of course, the NHS can’t halt climate change on its own, but as one of the largest employers in the country, it can lead the way. And sustainability is not just about reducing carbon emissions. New ways of working, new buildings, hospitals and spaces will need to be future proof so that they stand the test of time. A new NHS building today should be built to last, to care for babies born in 2022 for the rest of their lives, from cradle to grave.
So how does Sheffield fit into all that? The Green City has a reputation as a big verdant village rather than a post-industrial city. But while parts of it really are green (with an estimated 4.5 million trees), it’s a diverse and complicated modern city with some stark social and health inequalities: there’s a 10 year difference between the poorest and most affluent areas of the city.
This means that any changes we make, to our services, estates, ways of working, must be in the interests of the diverse communities we serve.
And as one of the city’s major employers, SHSC is in a great position to lead the way in building sustainable solutions to reduce our carbon footprint and create services that will deliver for the people of Sheffield for years to come.
Our new Green Plan, due to be published February 2022, sets out how SHSC will become more sustainable and deliver on NHS Net Zero targets. It will be publicly available and is a key part of our vision to improve the mental, physical and social wellbeing of the people in our communities.
When we spoke to Sarah Ellison, Sustainability Lead at SHSC, she was hopeful that the Green Plan will provide a framework for cooperative working to achieve its aims: “All of us making small changes at work and at home really will make a huge difference to how we can have a positive impact on our wellbeing, the environment and our communities.
“The Green Plan will be delivered by all of us at SHSC. We are all vital in making the changes that need to happen. So the new Green Plan will set out the SHSC ambition, but staff, service users, our partners and our communities will be need to be active in finding shared solutions to create sustainable ways of delivering care.”
At SHSC we’re already doing lots to reduce our carbon footprint. In 2019 we switched our energy supplier, so that now all our electricity comes from renewable sources. We’re replacing our old diesel vans with electric vehicles, improving our green spaces and planting trees at our sites to store carbon in the ground and create more therapeutic spaces for our service users. We’ve also been trialling a scheme to encourage us to use ebikes at work instead of cars.
It’s vital that any changes are made across the board, with the buy in of everyone who might be affected by or need to put something new into practice. Our ‘small changes, big impact’ project is right now asking for our people to share ideas for how we can improve the environmental sustainability of our services and reduce our carbon footprint.
These are projects are some of our first steps on the path to being carbon net zero. Our Green Plan will provide is a map to help us stick to that path in the years to come.