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Kaiser Permanente: The Future of Healthcare Rests On The Inseparable Connection Between Climate And Human Health.

Updated: Apr 27

Kaiser Permenente Announces Reaching Carbon Neutrality In 2020

Kaiser Permanente is a leader in the healthcare industry, operating across eight states with a vast network that includes 39 hospitals and over 700 medical offices. With a workforce exceeding 300,000, including more than 87,000 physicians and nurses, Kaiser Permanente's operations are extensive, touching the lives of millions through its healthcare services.

Kaiser Permanente has made reducing its environmental impact a priority for over 70 years. In recent years, Kaiser Permanente has emerged as a role model in environmental stewardship within the healthcare sector. The organization's commitment to sustainability is not just a facet of its operations but a core element of its mission to improve community health.

Greg A. Adams, Chair and Chief Executive Officer

In 2020 Greg Adams, Chairman and CEO noted that “as wildfires rage across the Western U.S., we can all see that the health impacts of climate change are not abstract or far in the future—they are here today, and they disproportionately impact the most vulnerable among us. We must recognize, for example, that the pollution that leads to respiratory illnesses and is linked to higher mortality rates from COVID-19, disproportionately impacts Black and low-income communities. In order to create a healthier, more sustainable path forward, we must address the inseparable issues of climate and human health as one.”

This commitment is also reflected in the words of Bechara Choucair, MD,

Bechara Choucair, MD, SVP and Chief Health Officer

Senior Vice President and Chief Health Officer at Kaiser Permanente, who stated, "To have the necessary impact on the health of our climate and communities, we must continue to set and achieve bold, audacious environmental goals. We must commit to doing the difficult work of decarbonizing our supply chain to greatly broaden our contribution to a carbon-free economy."  "As physicians, climate change is absolutely in our lane — let's educate ourselves, our patients, and our communities," added Imelda

Imelda Dacones, MD, President and CEO, Northwest Permanente

Dacones, MD, President and CEO of Northwest Permanente Medical Group. "As a world, we will develop vaccines and effective medicines to treat the COVID-19 pandemic. Climate change, on the other hand, is a public health crisis where there will be no point of return if we don't act today."

Kaiser Permanente's journey to sustainability is well-documented in its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report, which outlines the organization's strategies and achievements in reducing its environmental impact. A significant milestone in this journey was reaching carbon-neutral status, a target achieved in 2020. This accomplishment was a result of a comprehensive strategy that included both on-site and off-site renewable energy projects, as well as the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs).

The organization's ESG report for 2022 details the methods used to achieve these goals. Kaiser Permanente has installed solar power at 100 sites, generating 114 megawatt-hours (MWh) by 2021 and reducing carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 27,203 tons. Additionally, the organization invested in offsite solar, purchasing 969,000 MWh of renewable electricity. These efforts have significantly reduced Kaiser Permanente's scope 2 emissions, which are emissions from purchased electricity.

"We are proud of this accomplishment, but the urgency and scale of climate change require even greater and more widespread innovation," said Ramé Hemstreet, Vice
VP for Operations and Chief Sustainable Resources Officer
President of Operations and Chief Sustainable Resources Officer. "As we set our sights on new goals, we hope our example inspires others in our industry to do the same."

This sense of urgency has propelled Kaiser Permanente not only to meet but maintain its 100% renewable electricity target. The organization's plan to sustain this achievement involves continued investment in renewable energy projects and partnerships that support the transition to a greener grid.

However, sourcing 100% renewable electricity is not without its challenges. Risks include potential fluctuations in renewable energy availability and changes in regulatory environments that could affect the cost and feasibility of renewable energy projects. Kaiser Permanente has navigated these risks by diversifying its renewable energy portfolio and engaging in long-term power purchase agreements that provide stability and predictability in energy costs.

An area for potential improvement in Kaiser Permanente's strategy is the inclusion of RECs with additionality. Additionality refers to the concept that the purchase of RECs should lead to the generation of additional renewable energy that would not have been created without the purchase. By incorporating RECs with additionality, Kaiser Permanente could accelerate the transition of the grid to renewable energy sources. This approach could mitigate long-term costs associated with renewable energy procurement, as it supports the development of new renewable energy projects that can provide more competitive pricing over time.

Moreover, RECs with additionality would enhance Kaiser Permanente's sustainability marketing claims, as they demonstrate a direct contribution to the growth of renewable energy. As the organization's operations continue to expand, leading to increased electricity consumption, RECs with additionality provide a scalable solution to ensure that emission reduction strategies keep pace with growth.

Kaiser Permanente's commitment to environmental stewardship and its achievement of 100% renewable electricity procurement are commendable. The organization's proactive approach to sustainability has set a benchmark in the healthcare industry. While there is always room for improvement, Kaiser Permanente's efforts have undeniably contributed to a healthier planet and a healthier future for the communities it serves.


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