Monday, November 8, 2010

CSR, healthcare, nonprofit: all in one report

Yesterday saw the launch in Israel of the first Social and Environmental Reponsibility Report (in Hebrew only) of a not-for-profit healthcare organization, the second largest in Israel, Maccabi Health Services.
(Disclosure: my company, Beyond Business, supported the process and writing of this report)

The report conforms with GRI Application level B, and is the first time ever an organization of this kind in Israel has adopted a comprehensive approach to social and environmental responsibility and has reported in a transparent way, publishing probably the most revealing document ever for this organization, or indeed, any other of the healthcare organisations in this country. Maccabi defines four key areas of responsibility: public health, workplace, community and environment and the report includes summaries of stakeholder panels and feedback provided to Maccabi which assisted in determining the report content. This  represents local best practice. The report also defines future targets including a commitment by  Maccabi to report every two years. Regretfully, at this stage, the report has not been published in English but at least the 1.9 million heath-insured members of  Maccabi, the 6,413 employees and the many other local stakeholders will be able to read the report in the local language.  

In a conference to launch the report, the Maccabi CEO explained how taking a comprehensive approach to responsibility brings both internal and external benefits. In fact, the organization won the IPRA (International Public Relations Association) environmental award for its unwanted drug collection campaign , an innovative programme designed to remove an critical element of hazardous waster from our water sources and also drive environmental awareness and responsibility amongst the Israeli public. Over 1600 litres of unwanted drugs on average per month were deposited in special bins for safe disposal provided by Maccabi in the first 2 years  (2009 and 2010) of the campaign, which continues to operate throughout the country. This is a significant amount of hazardous waste which would otherwise been thrown in family garbage bins or flushed down the toilets, with potentially harmful consequences.

Aside from the focus on the report, a fascinating speaker at the conference was Johnathan Patz, professor and director, global environmental health at Wisconsin University. Johnathan ran us through an aspect of climate change which doesn't get addressed all that frequently in talks and writings about the global climate change crisis. Extreme variations in climate and weather bring about a range of adverse health related consequences - a brief summary of some of these  can be found in this section of the Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Johnathan quoted a study from way back in 1996 when peak traffic was reduced so as to "clean" the air for athletes arriving for the Altlanta Olympics. At the same time, child asthma-related visits to the emergency room reduced by 42% (whereas non-asthma related visits remained the same), proving the significant immediate tangible effects of car emission pollution on health.  Johnathan also talked about the global warming impact on the spread of disease by mosquitos. As mosquitos (as all insects) are cold-blooded, their bodies take on the temperature around them. Higher temperatures advance the development of parasites that the mosquito may be carrying and therefore spead disease more rapidly. Zimbabwe, which is at high altitude and therefore cooler, has very low malaria rates as a result of this. If Zimbabwe were to get warmer, and it will,  then the mosquitos will have a field day there too. He also mentioned "environmental refugees" as another outcome of overall global warming and climate change consequences. Johnathan's solution - amongst other things - move to low-emission trsnaportation - feet, bikes, public transport etc- to reduce one million deaths per year from urban air pollution and nearly 2 million deaths per year from leading an unhealthy lifestyle resulting from, amongst other things, reliance on motor vehicles. Looping back to Maccabi Health Services, it is clear that there are also strong environmental imperatives to promote a healthy lifestyle healthcare providers should also make this connection as part of their sustainability strategy.

Overall, a good day for CSR. The leadership shown by Maccabi is to be admired and emulated. Johnathan Patz is to be commended for clearly articulating how climate change affects our health and what we can do about it.  And we should listen to both.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices   Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness,  CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)


Henk Hadders said...

Hi Elaine,

Interesting post and I would love to learn more. Too bad there's no English version to read. My compliments to Maccabi Health Services for broadening their vision, while trying to improve their social and ecological footprints. I agree that health care services should do more good instead of no harm, and that it should be focused on improving the health of patients, workers, community and the environment. However, I believe that most mainstream health care organizations are unsustainable, and that their knowledge and learning systems in place are unsustainable as well. So I would love to know what the social and ecological sustainability performance outcomes are of this hospital. What does a sustainable hospital building look like ? Who was the sustainability leader behind this approach? Are doctors and nurses really innovating to practice sustainable medicine? Mainstream medicine depends on lots of resources, drugs and high-tech machines ( just look at these chains); but how to do more with less, becoming a more modest health care. How does this hospital or health care organization see its responsibility regarding the pollution of our water systems with the drugs they only use and prescribe. Just some more questions. I would suggest you start new new blog series on the relationship between CSR and health care (in general) to find more answers. We really need this, as health care is often the largest sector in national economies, but with the least attention for sustainability matters.


elaine said...

Thank you for your comment, Henk. I think the questions you raise are very relevant and no doubt will be the subject of many discussions leading to actions at this particular healthcare organization. I agree with you that healthcare is a core building block of sustainability and gets relatively little coverage.
warm regards, elaine

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