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Partnerships to Green the Healthcare Supply Chain

3p Contributor | Tuesday April 12th, 2011 | 0 Comments

By Julie Graham

A welcome trend is emerging in the business of healthcare: Firms that once competed for market share are partnering up to secure their future in a green economy.   Last week’s CleanMed 2011 conference in Phoenix provided an opportunity for some of these firms to showcase new initiatives with their partnering companies.

The theme is greening the supply chain.  Partnerships between suppliers, reprocessors, and waste management are proving to be a viable way of maintaining market share as these firms face an increasing demand from corporate consumers looking for products that are conducive to meeting their own environmental goals.   In addition to consumers driving this increasing need  for green market share, the federal government has internally committed to exercising its buying power by the implementation of its Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program.  This program is a weighed effort by the government intended to inject federal dollars into green business, as a driver for a sustainable economy.

Environmentally Preferred Purchasing is being adopted into some of the largest healthcare corporations in the U.S.   For example, Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Healthcare West have committed to negotiating Environmentally Preferable Purchasing contracts into their respective supply chains.  Last May, TriplePundit reported on the tool developed and used by Kaiser, a scorecard of 10 criteria fitting sustainable purchasing.  This tool is available to the public for downloading at www.practicegreenhealth.org .

To answer the call for products which align with the environmental goals of healthcare systems such as Kaiser, CHW, and the like, medical equipment companies such as Stryker and Medline, have partnered with the equipment reprocessing companies Ascent and Medissis respectively.  Medical technology company Becton, Dickenson and Company (BD), has partnered with Waste Management to develop their trademarked BD EcoFinity Life Cycle Solution.   The BD Ecofinity sharps-waste recycling program was piloted at Rady Children’s hospital in San Diego,  in January of this year.

The Stryker Corporation was the title sponsor of last week CleanMed 2011 conference.  In Phoenix, I had the opportunity to sit down Marci Kaminsky, Stryker’s Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, and Lars Thording, Senior Director of Marketing for Ascent Healthcare Solutions.  Ascent is a reprocessing company, purchased by Stryker, in 2009, as a strategic effort to keep market share, recognizing that, per Ms. Kaminsky, “This is the future.  Be part of the game or suffer the consequence.”   Ms. Kaminsky and Mr. Thording spoke candidly about the fact that there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of the impact generated by the medical equipment industry, and that their partnership is a smart, strategic business move.  However, Stryker has long identified themselves as “Caring for the Caregiver,” and is working hard toward extending that legacy to include actively caring for the environment as a natural extension of the caregiver.

Not too many years ago, companies like Stryker, Medline and BD competed with reprocessors and nearly drove them out of the market.  The aforementioned partnerships are proof positive examples green market drivers are having a very desirable effect  towards a more sustainable economy.  And in the context of the healthcare industry being the second largest contributor of industrial waste, these partnerships have the potential to significantly reduce outputs such as greenhouse gas emissions and solid landfill waste.

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Julie Graham is a Registered Nurse and guest author from southern California.  She is currently pursuing her Master of Public Administration in  Sustainable Management, at Presidio Graduate School, in San Francisco.


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