Department of Health

Sustainability at Western Health - CEO

  • 05 October 2015
  • Duration: 04:36
  • Some time ago, we had a series of conversations with our staff about the things that they care about and a lot of that fed into our strategic directions, our priorities for the next five to 10 years.


    And one of the conversations was also about a little by line that we have at Western Health called "Caring for our Community", and so in fact we've changed that to be caring for our patients, our staff, our community and our environment.

    And so recognising that as a significant health service with a large footprint in terms of our energy usage and other waste that occurs within our health service, we've brought together, the aspirations of our staff, together with the imperatives on us as an organisation: so, it's not just about the enforcement element, but that's a big part of my responsibility as Chief Executive as well.

    At Western Health, as well as having our dedicated Project Officer or resource, the Executive and the Board have endorsed our plan for the future, so we have an environmental sustainability plan. In fact, the Board have asked for us to report to them quarterly on that; they're really keen to see how we're progressing and we have a committee that's made up of staff, not only staff on the front line, but executive who champion our efforts and support our efforts.

    So, with all of those things, I think we've got leadership from the top and leadership from the people in our organisation at the front line and all over the organisation, and those things come together to create what I hope might turn into a little bit of a movement over time.

    The imperative on us all is to think about future generations, and when you're thinking about the things that you can do, there are things that pay back over the longer term, things that pay back over the medium term and things that pay back in the immediate to short term.

    And so what we look for is a mix of different investments that we can make, but I guess feel good about our children and our grandchildren and the kind of environment that we want to create for them, and there are many people in this organisation who are very passionate in this area and they, , keep us all very honest. So, it's terrific.

    If we're building new buildings, there's a great incentive there to look at how we can, meet our obligations. So, when we have been doing, some retrofitting we've also had the opportunity to look at that. We've invested in, for example, solar panels on some of our older buildings, but in our new buildings we've got a whole range of things that we've done around water harvesting and different kinds of approaches to cooling, air cooling and windows that open.

    We've got some bigger examples we invest in, but there are some small things, so we were just looking at plastic bag usage.

    We spend more than $50,000 a year on plastic bags, almost $60,000 and if we just changed our plastic bags, not only do we get plastic bags that are biodegradable, but we save $25,000 a year in plastic bags.

    So, there are some… as I said earlier, there are some very quick ones for us in terms of a return to the bottom line and any money that gets returned to our bottom line gets invested back in patient care, and so that's terrific for us. So, not only can you feel good about the environment, you can feel good about having money that you can spend on looking after your patients.

    The best thing we ever did was invest in a dedicated person who can champion environmental sustainability at Western Health, and that's been huge for us in terms of having someone that can put a framework around what we're doing, bring people together in an organised way and monitor what we're doing. I'm having champions in the organisation who we can empower to have a role and to, not only have a role at Western Health, but to have a role nationally and in fact sometimes globally. So, putting people out there, what I can do is create opportunities for my team to be able to do that. I think that's really important. And sometimes we think about investment as expenditure, but investment is an investment and that's how we should look at spending on environmental sustainability as an investment in ourselves and our future.

CEO of Western Health, Katherine Cook, talks sustainability.

Reviewed 05 October 2015

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