HealthPartners Environmental Sustainability
HealthPartners is committed to caring for the places where we live and work so we can provide a healthier, cleaner and more livable environment for our employees, members, patients and future generations. Our sustainability goals include:
- expanding the use of sustainable and earth-friendly practices to help us work smarter, be healthier and save money;
- encouraging employees to participate in, champion and support sustainability practices, both at work and at home;
- measuring and monitoring our progress toward our sustainability goals; and
- leading, advocating and implementing initiatives that improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve.
HealthPartners’ sustainability program is central to and fully aligned with their mission, vision and values. To achieve the positive, long-term result with the community that their mission requires, they must take health, well-being and sustainability into account. This approach goes beyond their four walls and extends into the communities they serve, as well as into other parts of the country where they acquire goods and services.
At HealthPartners, their sustainability program lies at the intersection of their triple aim (health, experience, affordability) and their triple bottom-line (people, planet, prosperity). They want to move beyond “business as usual” and transform into an organization that does “more good” instead of “less bad.” One example of this transformative change is their Medicine Take-Back program, where they collect the public’s unneeded or unwanted medicines for proper disposal. While this program comes at a cost to the organization, it also keeps medications away from those who shouldn’t have them, keeps chemicals from being released to the environment, and supports their larger mission. In short, it’s the right thing to do.
Health care is a resource-intensive industry that uses a significant amount of energy and generates an enormous amount of waste. This is why they are committed to a comprehensive sustainability program to help use energy wisely, continually install new and more efficient equipment at their facilities, and minimize the amount of waste they generate. In addition, HealthPartners has committed to renewable energy. In 2018, their renewable energy commitments generated over 8,800 MWh worth of carbon-free electricity—the equivalent of the annual electricity needs of 840 houses. By reducing their carbon footprint, they also decrease airborne pollutants, thus lowering incidents of asthma and other coronary/respiratory diseases.
In the realm of waste management, they work with their suppliers to minimize packaging. When waste is unavoidable, they search for ways to keep it from going to landfills and incinerators. In 2018, they diverted over 8.5 million pounds of materials from landfills. This included almost 200 tons of organic wastes, as well as more than 150,000 pounds of material, equipment and supplies that were donated to medical mission trips and other nonprofit organizations. These efforts support their overall mission by avoiding environmental impacts, providing jobs and materials to those in need, and saving money. In 2018, their waste-minimization efforts and overall sustainability initiatives helped us save over $1.6 million and $3.6 million, respectively.
HealthPartners has green teams that work hard on leading our sustainability initiatives. These teams exist across our organization, including at our HealthPartners headquarters in Bloomington, Hudson Hospital & Clinic, Lakeview Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Regions Hospital, Westfields Hospital & Clinic, Amery Hospital & Clinic, and several of our clinics.
HealthPartners has also been a pioneer in reducing medication waste by creating a medicine take-back program. This program began in 2011 to collect unneeded and unused medication from community members for free. In 2018, they deployed an additional 14 medicine take-back kiosks to accept controlled substances and other medications. HealthPartners disposes of these medications so they’re not misused or discharged into the environment. In 2018, they collected over 7,300 pounds of medications from the public through this program. Since 2011, they have collected over 22,000 pounds of medicines. To date, they have spent about $80,000, or $3.60 per pound, for proper medicine disposal.
Finally, they are reducing paper use by having members sign up for paperless Explanation of Benefits (EOB)—resulting in a 10% paper reduction from 2014 and 2017. And since 2014, their telemedicine programs like Virtuwell have prevented over 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions—the equivalent of taking about 200 cars off the road for a year.
Practice Greenhealth (practicegreenhealth.org), Clean Air Minnesota (https://environmental-initiative.org/work/clean-air-minnesota/), Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition (https://environmental-initiative.org/work/minnesota-sustainable-growth-coalition/), Health Care Climate Council (https://noharm-uscanada.org/healthcareclimatecouncil), Women’s Environmental Network (https://wenmn.org/).
How Health Plans Support the Project
HealthPartners’ comprehensive sustainability programs support our mission, improve the health of our communities, and engage our members, patients, colleagues and other stakeholders.
Director, Sustainability Programs, HealthPartners