Supply Chain: Health Care and Social Assistance

Sector Name: Health Care and Social Assistance
SIC code: 62


Major Players

Health Care Product Suppliers:


  • Abbott Labs
  • Baxter InternationalBD
  • Covidien
  • Cardinal


Hospital Systems/Groups:


  • Ascension Health
  • Community Health Systems
  • Hospital Corporation of America
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Premier Inc.
  • VA Hospitals


Major Issues

Below are five general areas in which hospitals and other health care providers are directing sustainability efforts, and where small businesses hoping to partner with larger health care providers and suppliers.   

  1. Waste: Hospitals (and other health care providers) produce a staggering amount of waste (estimated to be up to 33 lbs per bed per day). Providers are looking for ways to reduce waste. These ways include recycling, reusing, reducing, returning materials to manufacturers, and investing in more durable products.
  2. Energy: Health care providers have focused on ways to reduce energy waste, and increase efficiency through careful use, energy-efficient products, green energy energy supply (solar, wind, etc.), and more efficient building design and construction
  3. Water: Similarly to energy reduction, health care providers have been attempting to reduce water use through more efficient appliances and instruments as well as better plumbing design and construction. Also, many health care providers have recognized the need to protect water supply from improper disposal of chemicals/pharmaceuticals/etc.
  4. Food and Nutrition: Many hospitals and in-patient centers have focused on ways to provide patients and employees with healthy and sustainably-produced food. This includes buying more food produced within local communities.
  5. Chemicals: Institutions across the sector have recognized the necessity to keep facilities clear of toxic or harmful chemicals. This includes avoiding products that contain harmful chemicals such as mercury, PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) and DEHP (di-2-ethyl hexylphthalate).


Key Requirements

Many of the large hospitals systems do not interact directly with independent suppliers, but instead work through large supply companies. Individual hospitals vary in their reliance on medical supply companies. Each major medical supplier has its own expectations for suppliers; many of which articulate specific sustainability criteria. Many of these companies post guidelines online. Small businesses hoping to work with medical supply companies should check specific expectations. Below are examples of expectation guidelines of several of the largest domestic supply companies.




Many large hospital systems do not articulate their supplier expectations online, however Kaiser Permanente does have a compliance list they expect all of their suppliers to meet.


Key Certifications

Green Guide Product Certification. The Green Guide includes a large database of sustainable and sustainability-focused products.

Practice GreenHealth gives sustainability awards to hospitals. It has multiple levels of awards, which function as certifications.

As suggested above, many of the major health care suppliers have their own internal certification programs. See the links above for individual supplier expectations.

There are a number of non-health care specific product certifications, including: Green Seal, Ecologo, and EPEAT.  While not specifically related to the medical field, any business could apply for LEED Building Certification.


Getting Started

Small companies looking to enter into medical supply chains should first research and identify potential business partners: medical establishments or medical supply companies. Next, individual companies should find and study the specific guidelines of those institutions.


Going Further

Write and submit sustainability-focused proposals. Review and revise marketing plans and materials to reflect and publicize a focus on sustainability.


Advanced Steps

Research local hospitals and medical businesses and identify novel ways to help their stated sustainability goals. Write a proposal that clearly outlines how your business can help the medical establishments attain their sustainability goals.


Best Practices

Kaiser Permanente: Since mid-2010, Kaiser Permanente has employed a new green scorecard to assess the environmental impact of all the products purchased for its hospitals. This metric affects up to to $1 Billion worth of health care supply purchasing. KP has already stopped using plastic items that contain PVC and DEHP, chemicals linked to health and environmental damage.

Kaiser Permanente has also made a concerted effort to using local food sources in all of its hospitals.  It has formed partnerships with local farmers in a range of local food-related projects. Many of KP’s hospitals now serve locally-grown food to patients and in their cafeterias. Also, KP sponsors farmers markets in many of the communities its hospitals serve.

Health/local food initiatives present a great opportunity for local farmers to partner directly with hospitals and in-patient clinics to supply patients and employees with healthy, local food.


Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas: This was the first hospital to achieve Platinum LEED certification.The hospital site contains a large range of sustainable, environmentally-conscious design choices, including 47,000 tons of reused building materials, extensive incorporation of reclaimed water, an on-site natural gas turbine that provides all the power for the hospital, and a high reliance on natural lighting inside the building. It remains one of three hospitals in the country currently platinum-LEED Certified.


Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI): HHI is a newly-formed coalition of three health care non-profit organizations and eleven large hospital systems to promote and work towards more sustainable hospitals. Guided by Practice Green Health, Health Care Without Harm, and the Center for Health Design, HHI offers encouragement, networking, and educational materials on improving the sustainability of hospitals. Hospital system members include: Kaiser Permanente, Partners Healthcare, BonSecours Health System, HCA, Dignity Health, Catholic Health Initiatives, Advocate Healthcare, Vanguard Health Systems, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, Inova Health System, and MedStar Health.


Key Resources


Key Words

Supplier Expectations, Green Hospitals, Sustainable Hospitals, Healthcare Sustainability, Green Healthcare, Green Supply, Sustainable Healthcare products, Healthcare supply chains

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