On Wednesday, I had the pleasure to attend Metrics that Matter, Messages that Motivate — Making the Right Case for Sustainability in Healthcare, an event hosted by The Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL) and Johnson & Johnson at Wharton’s West coast campus in San Francisco. Geoffrey Garrett, recently named dean of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, kicked things off by emphasizing the importance of sustainability in every area of our daily lives. He also asserted that we shouldn’t only look up to governments for solutions — while sustainability continues to grow as a consumer concern, the ability of the governments to deliver what is needed is extremely low; the private sector needs to take the lead and help us understand the convergence between private benefit and public good.
In the first panel, “Metrics That Matter,” Krisanne Hanson, Director of Sustainability at Stanford University Medical Center (SUMC), shared a case study about Stanford’s healthcare plastics resources recovery and waste management program. Initiated by students in late 1970s, the university has since increased its landfill diversion rate from 30 percent in 1994 to 64 percent in 2013, with a goal of 75 percent by 2020. This will help pave the road to zero waste, which is defined as at least 90 percent diversion. Hanson explained that hauling waste to a materials recovery facility rather than to landfill helped the school save more than $800,000 (roughly 80 percent) in costs in 2013.
Next, Eric Olson, SVP at BSR, highlighted the importance of organizations’ value chains and using a systems-thinking approach to metrics in every area of the company. Olson mentioned that some sustainability issues are harder to tackle as their origins are difficult to track, and that behavior change in the healthcare sector. Doctors’ primary concern may not be saving the environment as they are mainly focused on saving lives. Making the business case in the health sector starts with purchasing. When it comes to purchasing, health care providers want to evaluate the total cost across the lifecycle of a medical device’s use from purchase to end-of-life (disposal, reuse, etc) also known as the total cost of ownership (TCO) framework. Olson admitted the framework could be confusing at first, but said it will bring tremendous benefits to health care organizations in considering TCO in their supply chain.
Rounding out the panel was Shawn Mason, PhD, Associate Director of Outcomes Research and Data Analytics at Johnson & Johnson Health & Wellness Solutions, who shifted the conversation slightly by discussing sustainability’s impacts on human health. He said different metrics drive different outcomes and in order to see the big picture, we need to put all of these metrics together. Mason gave the example of a tool developed for Johnson & Johnson, the Health and Performance Index (HaPI), which taps into individual and organizational health issues. The HaPI combines measures of health, productivity, well-being, leadership effectiveness, and culture of health and program sustainability.
When an audience member asked what if sustainability initiatives don’t pencil out, Olson replied that the benefit is creating value for stakeholders and overall leadership opportunity in the marketplace. Mason added even if the costs outweigh the financial return, the value will be added to the corporate’s overall mission.
In the second part of the panel, “Messages that Motivate,” Susannah Patton, Media Manager at Kaiser Permanente, shared the healthcare provider’s recent commitment to Flame-Retardant-Free furniture and the early results. Patton emphasized that creating awareness of flame retardants in our environment was the first step in the project — after the launch, feedback was positive, with suppliers even asking how they can help. Then other institutions followed, which drove a change in the industry. Patton said when it comes to sharing such a story, her strategy is to think like a reporter and to share the story in the most authentic way possible.
John Frey, Americas Sustainability Executive at Hewlett-Packard, then asserted the importance of understanding the audience and addressing them in their own language — such as talking to investors in financial terms, and emphasizing the money-saving, rather than the eco-friendly, aspects of sustainability. Frey said he is working towards to embed sustainability deeper into HP’s business processes so that there is no need for ‘sustainability specialist’ roles in the company.
The final speaker was Keith Sutter, Sr. Product Director at Johnson & Johnson, who highlighted the importance of simplifying sustainability to avoid confusion. Metrics are the conversation starter, he said — followed by setting a goal, holding senior leadership accountable, and inspiring employees to make a difference — when attempting to achieve sustainability success.
After lunch, Skip Skivington, VP of Supply Chain, Procurement & Supply at Kaiser Permanente, closed the event by stating the importance of alignment of the set goals and metrics to stakeholders, leadership, employees and customers. Using golf as an example, Skivington emphasized the need to keep track of metrics that matter: If you don’t keep score, it means you are only practicing. Creating metrics that align with stakeholders is not enough by itself — it is crucial to give responsibility to people that can be held accountable. Skivington concluded by stating that organizations need to stay out of their own way and stay focused on the areas in which they can make the most impact.