Organizing for Sustainability: Exploratory Analysis of the Healthcare Industry
Sustainability is fast becoming a business megatrend, essential for organizations to address in order to maintain their competitive positions. Sustainability seeks to balance and simultaneously optimize environmental, social and financial concerns. Sustainability in healthcare represents a particularly challenging undertaking as it necessarily encompasses the wide variety of facilities, operations and activities in a typical healthcare organization. This exploratory study examines the organizational approaches of eight healthcare systems with relatively successful sustainability initiatives.
This study identified several key organizational elements that support the effectiveness of the sustainability initiatives. First, there must be an executive champion who advocates for sustainability to important stakeholders. An executive-level champion is essential in helping to define sustainability for the organizational context, securing resources for sustainability, advocating for sustainability within the organization, linking the sustainability activities to high-level strategy, and working with a sustainability coordinator who oversees day-to-day activities.
Second, the values of the sustainability initiative must be reflected in the organization’s high-level mission, vision or values. Linking to the high-level mission helps to underscore the relationship between sustainable operations and patient care. This also defines organizational norms and helps guide decision-making. Finally, performance measurement systems are used to monitor and guide sustainability activities. The organizations studied regularly track a number of key sustainability performance indicators. These are monitored at the highest organizational levels. Performance management systems are also used to align individual, department and facility level activities with strategic goals around sustainability.