How Green Purchasing is Changing Medical Markets
By Christopher Arends and Jim Cassidy
The green product revolution surging through the European markets has finally hit our shores.
And while we don’t have the same strict environmental regulations, customers in hospitals and clinics are increasingly sensitive to claims of environmental friendless. Talk is big and opportunities are plentiful. We are living and working in the Wild West of the green medical movement.
You probably wonder if creating greener medical products can help your sales. And you probably wonder if greening your operation might give you a competitive advantage when new environmental regulations and programs are unveiled in the coming years. The answer is a resounding yes and yes.
In this article we’ll look at the forces behind green purchasing in the medical industry, see what some big names are doing to make their product lines more sustainable, and explore the possibilities for future environmental policy and its affects on your business.
Consumer demand for less wasteful medical products currently driving most change
According to Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E), the healthcare sector generates approximately 1.3 million pounds of waste every day, 85% of which is non-hazardous solids like paper, cardboard, food waste, metal, glass, and plastics. If such waste doesn’t end up in the nation’s overflowing landfills, then it’s incinerated, releasing toxic dioxin, mercury, lead, and other dangerous air pollutants.
Hospitals are sick of the high trash bills associated with gratuitous packaging and tired of the community backlash from excessive incineration.
So hospitals have begun adopting source reduction and environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) programs. Buyers in such programs favor companies that use minimal or durable packaging or offer reusable, upgradable, or recyclable devices.
H2E estimates that hospitals and clinics that abide by EPP programs can save anywhere from 40 – 70% on waste disposal costs. That can be upwards of $600,000a year for large hospitals like The Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.
These numbers have snagged the attention of Kaiser Permanente, the Oakland healthcare giant, who announced last October the creation of a sector-wide effort to promote sustainable practices. Among other goals, the Global Health and Safety Initiative will coordinate the healthcare industry’s $70 billion purchasing power to encourage the production of more eco-friendly devices.
“If we collaborate, we can create leverage in the marketplace for safer and healthier practices that protect patients and staff while reducing our overall environmental footprint,” says Kaiser CEO George C. Halvorson. “Our hope is that through the Global Health and Safety Initiative, many more leaders in the health care sector will realize that being green is a team sport.”
With 22 major healthcare systems and four group purchasing organizations already signed on, the Initiative will have a major impact in the market. Your next medical product should be on the Kaiser and H2E purchasing lists.
Here at BC Tech, our Industrial Design team is finding creative ways to reduce packaging and implement recyclable materials. Savings during manufacturing usually recoups this extra design cost. And considering the competitive advantage of a low-package product – it makes investment in waste reduction during the design phase a winning proposition.