HIGPA: Take the Test on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

By Curtis Rooney

What is black and white and “green” all over?

  • A frog in a blender.
  • A newspaper printed by a left-wing political party.
  • A new policy statement on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing endorsed by group purchasing organizations.
  • All of the above.

If you chose C, you are correct! In May, the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association (HIGPA) endorsed the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Statement drafted by the Global Health & Safety Initiative (GHSI). The statement outlines environmentally friendly practices, including the contracting for products and services that are less hazardous to the health and safety of patients and workers. (Warning! If you chose A, you may need professional help and none of these groups can help you.)

GHSI emerged out of a meeting held in October 2007 by a coalition of co-founding groups consisting of hospitals and health systems, led by Kaiser Permanente, and other organizations, such as The Joint Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For those without a scorecard, GHSI is a separate organization from Practice Greenhealth, which was once H2E. The group is also partners with Health Care Without Harm.

The policy statement endorsed by HIGPA outlines the fundamental definitions, priorities and practices that advance the development and implementation of Environmentally Preferable Purchasing in healthcare. Specifically, it states that these products and services:

Use greener chemicals, that is, chemicals that are inherently less hazardous and release little to no toxic byproducts across their lifecycle.
Promote the use of renewable materials by increasing the use of sustainable, bio-based materials and reducing the use of fossil fuel-based materials.
Support healthy food systems by sourcing local, seasonal, nutritious and sustainably produced food products.
Enhance land stewardship by cultivating healthy ecosystems and protecting natural resources.
Use environmentally sound waste disposal technologies where reuse, reduction and recycling cannot be achieved.

Rather than a manifesto, the policy is an invitation for “all healthcare purchasing decision-makers, purchasers, providers, suppliers and manufacturers to invest in the research, design, production, purchase and use of environmentally safer products, to challenge our business strategies, and to adopt sustainable initiatives that will significantly contribute to the health of patients, healthcare workers, communities and the environment.” Our hope is that this statement will become a test everyone will want to pass.