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Boosting Bold Environmental Goals

Fontana, Ontario hospitals lead Kaiser Permanente in launching new environmental management system to help people and communities thrive

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Kaiser Permanente enhances the health of our communities by providing high-quality health care and improving the upstream conditions that profoundly impact health, including a livable sustainable environment. Demonstrating a strong commitment to protecting and sustaining the environment, the Kaiser Permanente Fontana and Ontario medical centers are the first enterprise-wide to formally implement an environmental management system that meets a leading international standard. Known as ISO 14001:2015, this standard provides a framework an organization can follow to achieve high-performing environmental stewardship.

A variety of studies indicate the health care industry significantly impacts the environment by producing substantial amounts of trash, using large volumes of water, and emitting greenhouse gases. The San Bernardino County facilities implemented all elements of ISO 14001 in 2018, launching Kaiser Permanente’s efforts to meet this global standard at all of its 39 medical centers nationwide by 2025. 

“We are proud of the high-quality, affordable health care we provide. Part of our overall standard of excellence includes managing our operations in a way that emphasizes positive environmental impacts.”

-- Greg Christian, senior vice president and area manager, San Bernardino County Area

To meet the ISO 14001 standard, an organization must identify its most significant environmental risks and opportunities, and effectively manage them within the organization’s daily operations. In Fontana and Ontario, the EMS has resulted in setting objectives to:

  • Avoid, reduce, or control the creation of wastes and air pollutants, including greenhouse gases
  • Serve more food that is produced sustainably
  • Fulfill all compliance obligations relevant to the environmental aspects of the hospitals’ activities and services

The organization-wide EMS will provide a strong foundation for Kaiser Permanente to achieve all of its bold environmental goals, such as having carbon neutral operations by 2020 and recycling 100% of the organization’s nonhazardous wastes by 2025.

“There’s a lot of work going into building this system,” said Brian Richardson, group leader, Support Services, San Bernardino County Area. “We really view this as a beginning. We have very ambitious goals as an organization.”

“People who work in health care facilities are often struck by the sheer magnitude of waste they see being generated each day. They know it’s not good for the environment on which the health of everyone depends, so they appreciate whenever they are empowered to continue delivering great patient care, but with less waste.”

-- Joe Bialowitz, national environmental program leader, Kaiser Permanente

In Fontana and Ontario, waste reduction initiatives include ongoing physician and staff education and communication about the various kinds of waste – such as recyclables, biohazardous, hazardous, and electronic waste – and where they belong.

Overall, the EMS in Fontana and Ontario offers a potential blueprint that other Kaiser Permanente hospitals can follow as they implement ISO 14001 over the next several years.

“We’re never going to be done,” said Dawn Stetka, engineering project manager, San Bernardino County, and one of the Kaiser Permanente leaders in developing the EMS. “We’re always going to be moving forward by assessing, making improvements, and measuring those improvements. We’re committed to improving community health and quality of life not only for today, but also for years to come.”