While 2020 and 2021 were consumed by Covid, 2022 will see the return of low carbon ambitions – with care providers taking these more seriously than ever, as our technical director Paul Hamilton told Tomorrow’s Care magazine.
Green ambitions fell by the wayside during Covid, for many sectors, including care. Amid a sea of additional single use plastics, plans to meaningfully lower carbon emissions suddenly seemed pretty unimportant, at least in the short term.
Good work that had been achieved in 2019 or before, was either filed in a box marked ‘let’s come back to this’ – or forgotten about, almost completely. In usual times, making changes for the better is hard – and involves a root to branch reassessment of long-established habits. But during a pandemic? It felt impossible.
Fast forward a few months, however, and net zero is very much back on the international agenda, thanks in part to the considerable influence of COP26, the climate change conference. For many organisations, aims to become carbon neutral are now in place, realistic and workable.
It’s clear that everyone has a part to play in changing the way we regard the earth’s precious resources – it is not a task to leave to big multinational corporations.
Healthcare providers must do their bit, to secure their own futures, no less. In its Global Risks Report 2021, extreme weather, climate change action failure and human environmental damage were listed by the World Economic Forum as the biggest threats to organisations – more pressing than any disease-related concern.
In the Hierarchy of Waste, reducing and re-using materials is rated more important than recycling unwanted items properly.
Whatever the commodity, it should ideally not be used in the first place – or less of it should be ordered. Moreover, the stock in question should be made to last as long as possible.
A good example here is linen – from bedclothes to towels and workwear. Simply trying to make sure that discarded items are recycled rather than sent to landfill is not enough.
The challenge is extend the life cycle of every pillowcase, and every hand towel – and thankfully technology is now facilitating this, through clever stain removal processes.
Demonstrating progress and good intentions regarding resources such as linen will offer lenders new confidence in an organisation, whether public or private. Increasingly, banks and investors do not want to support polluting companies.
In the near future, being able to borrow essential funds may rely more heavily on being able to provide a robust environmental policy. This document, and its believability, will also be of huge importance for those seeking contract work with other, environmentally-minded players.
Another upside of developing thriftier habits with linen, or any other such stock in constant use in the care environment, is the monetary saving involved.
Again, using linen as an example, the combined effects of the pandemic and Brexit have pushed up the price of cotton and polycotton.
According to recent figures from the Textile Services Association, based on survey responses from laundries all over the country, the cost of linen has risen 50%. Energy costs have also risen steeply, as have insurance and chemical outlays.
Saving money is more important than ever before – and the fact that finances and natural resources can be conserved simultaneously is an upside to this difficult but very urgent situation.
In summary, the evidence is stacking up to demonstrate that putting off getting an ambitious but workable environmental strategy in place will be crucial to care providers in 2022.