Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, has met the federal government’s “Better Buildings” challenge goal of 20% energy reduction three years ahead of schedule.
From July 1, 2008, through December 1, 2016, the system has reduced energy usage by 21.4%, saving $53.3 million in costs and cutting more than 1.1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions across 141 healthcare facilities, according to a recent announcement from Medxcel Facilities Management, a subsidiary of Ascension.
“As a Catholic health ministry, environmental stewardship is part of Ascension’s DNA,” said Robert J. Henkel, president and chief executive officer of Ascension Healthcare and executive vice president of Ascension, who was an original sponsor of the energy efficiency initiative. “Our mission calls us to sustain and improve the health of individuals and communities, and we know caring for the environment is an essential piece of that. From a mission standpoint as well as a value standpoint, it was the right thing to do.”
The organizations’ Environmental Stewardship Program focuses on leadership and infrastructure, education and communication, food systems, energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable site and transportation, chemical management, and environmentally preferred purchasing and waste management.
Ascension’s initiative began during the 2008 recession, when the incentive to reduce costs motivated the system to track energy use as the first environmental stewardship metric. After the system met its initial 5% energy-use reduction goal in 2011, Ascension committed to a 20% reduction in energy use by 2020 as part of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge.
Ascension, which was then composed of 68 acute care facilities spread across 30 million square feet, joined 60 founding members and was one of two health systems originally involved in the program.
“As hospitals became conscious of the value that came with improved energy efficiency, they began to ask about related strategies such as recycling programs, safer chemicals and environmentally preferred purchasing,” Dan Scher, Ascension's senior director of planning, design and construction, said in the announcement. “Energy efficiency is one of nine strategies the Ascension Environmental Stewardship Program has put in place to impact the health and wellness of the communities it serves.”
Although the accomplishment is an achievement, just as significant is sustainability of the program, said Michael Argir, chief executive officer and president of Medxcel FM, in the announcement. “We are leading the transformation of healthcare facilities management by offering a model that has a focus on ensuring an efficient and safe healing environment that positively impacts the communities we serve,” said Argir. “By achieving these goals ahead of schedule with our Environmental Stewardship Program, we are demonstrating that we take our impact on the communities seriously and strive to continue to improve the environmental footprint of the healthcare facilities we serve across the country.”