|For Kaiser Permanente (KP), the largest nonprofit health plan in the United States, environmental stewardship is a core business tenet, and it started in the beginning.
During the Depression, KP’s founders brought a new concept to the field of health: preventative care. Rather than merely treating illness or injury, they sought to keep people healthy and treat them early to prevent more serious problems later. This required a focus on the environment and KP’s communities at large in addition to patients’ needs.
So Henry J. Kaiser tackled air pollution issues at his Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana, California. He installed emission screening devices when the Southern California smog became a serious problem in the mid1950s. He invested $5 million in air pollution control equipment and built a laboratory to study the effects of air contaminants on plants. These efforts were unprecedented at the time.
“You can’t keep people healthy in an unhealthy environment,” says Dean Edwards (pictured), Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer at KP. “Our mission is—and always has been—to provide quality care for our members and their families, and to contribute to the well-being of our communities.”
KP’s environmental stewardship continues today. For example, the company has gone to great lengths to remove hazardous substances, such as mercury, from its healthcare environments. Potentially harmful chemicals, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), are also on their way out. Food purchasing guidelines incorporate locally sourced and organic products wherever possible. The list of KP’s environmentally sustainable practices goes on.
“Being green isn’t merely about recycling paper products and soda cans,” says Edwards. “We now use specialized, latex-free medical gloves and intravenous tubing. All of our new facilities are built using environmentally sound construction techniques. We are placing healthy food items in our vending machines as an alternative to candy bars. And we are putting IT at the forefront of our green initiatives.”
A focus on suppliers
Working with environmentally conscious suppliers also plays a role in fostering healthy environments.
“We want to know what we are bringing into our ecosystem, how these products were created and what happens to them once they leave,” Edwards explains. “Therefore, we require all of our supply chain partners to give full disclosure about the hazardous substances in their products and manufacturing facilities. We also make sure they have legitimate recycling and end-of-life policies for their products.”
KP has standardized on HP desktops, notebooks and monitors and relies heavily on HP servers. HP leads the industry in the number of Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT™) Gold listed products. The company has aggressive recycling, end-of-life and lease programs to decrease waste. And HP solutions feature industry-leading power and cooling capabilities that reduce energy consumption.
“We share Kaiser Permanente's vision of a healthy environment,” says Keith LeFebvre, Vice President and General Manager for Commercial Notebooks at HP. “That’s why we focus heavily on the packaging and recycling of our products. And we design our solutions to be reliable, environmentally friendly and energy efficient.”
Just like KP, HP is doing the little things that go largely unnoticed. The company is working to reduce paint usage on its products to improve recycling efforts. It has reclaimed more than a billion pounds of old products to reuse their materials, with the goal of another billion pounds by 2010. Reclaimed materials are used for new products like HP notebooks, which now use fans made of recycled plastic.
“We’re all making strides toward environmental stewardship,” notes Gabe Lesky, General Manager for Personal Systems at HP. “That said, HP is trying to lead the way and show our partners and customers what we’ve learned over the past several decades.”
HP has held summits for customers and partners to learn about environmental strategies and best practices. And the energy calculators on all of its desktop and notebook solutions empower users to make energy-efficient decisions.