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How can non-executive directors be the champions of sustainability in the NHS?

Published on October 25, 2022

The NHS accounts for 4% of UK carbon emissions, so on top of protecting the health of our nation, the organisation has a critical role to play in meeting the UK’s net zero target. To enable it to do just this, and to champion sustainability across its operations, RSK group and Nature Positive collaborated with IEMA to produce a guidance document on sustainability for non-executive directors in the NHS.

The National Health Service (NHS) is a critical institution in the UK and plays an essential role in the health and wellbeing of the public. However, it is also a significant contributor to the UK’s carbon emissions, accounting for 4% of England’s total. This highlights how the NHS is a vital player in meeting the UK’s net zero and broader sustainability targets.

Sustainability is a consideration in almost all activities within the NHS, and if not addressed, it could pose a significant risk to the organisation’s resilience. Nevertheless, there is a range of opportunities to deliver sustainability in the NHS and to have a positive impact on people, health outcomes and the planet.

This is why RSK group collaborated with the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) to produce a guidance document for non-executive directors (NED) in the NHS. Together with Nature Positive, an RSK company, we carried out extensive consultations with sustainability leads and NEDs in the NHS through a survey, round-table discussions and interviews. The research revealed that often, NEDs feel that they do not have the knowledge or confidence to raise or challenge the issue of sustainability within the NHS.

Implementing sustainability across the NHS will require engagement from a range of roles throughout the system, but NEDs in particular have significant influence over the strategic direction of their trust/health board, especially concerning sustainability.

The guidance document we have produced with Nature Positive and IEMA aims to provide NEDs and their other NHS colleagues with the information and tools needed to address this gap. This report has been created as a first step in supporting them to understand the sustainability issues that face the NHS and providing tools to enable them to advise, challenge and action sustainability within their trust/health board.

How can non-executive directors be the champions of sustainability in the NHS? Read the report to find out more.

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