What’s the future of ESG in healthcare?

Helping the NHS achieve net zero by 2040

ESG in healthcare is all about assessing the cultural and environmental impact of policies and services – something that needs to be central to the NHS and will support them in meeting their ambitious sustainability targets.

ESG stands for ‘Environmental, Social and Governance’, and it’s a growing area of interest for everyone from the Government to businesses and of course the NHS.

Investors, CEOs and Chief Executives “are increasingly applying these non-financial factors as part of their analysis process to identify material risks and growth opportunities” within the companies and institutions they oversee, according to the CFA Institute. In terms of healthcare, investment in ESG directly benefits the service provided to the users and the resulting societal and financial impact. As McKinsey & Company states: “Investing in health can not only save lives and build greater resilience but underpin economic growth and prosperity.”

If the benefit of investing in ESG in healthcare is so substantial, how do we quantify it with a metric? In reality, a number of ESG factors can be measured, but as the CFA Institute explains, “it can be difficult to assign them a monetary value”. ESG itself is an interconnected concept combining numerous factors to make up a broader ecology of benefit. Institutions can lose the complexity of their healthcare ESG investment when trying to calculate this benefit in a single metric. Let’s explore what the NHS is doing to invest in these multi-layered ESG factors, and how doing so can benefit the services it provides, as well as wider society and the economy. 

What is ESG in Healthcare Exactly?

A primary role of investing in ESG in healthcare industry settings is to improve an institution’s environmental impact. The NHS has identified that it must achieve net zero “by 2040 for the NHS Carbon Footprint, with an ambition for an 80% reduction (compared with a 1990 baseline) by 2028 to 2032”. This target highlights the sheer gravity of the progress that needs to be made within ESG investment across every facet of healthcare.  

An approach to investing in healthcare ESG has to be as interconnected as the issues it tries to tackle. As NHS England has noted, “​​while the greatest gains can be made in hospitals, change will be needed across every setting of care”. Approaching a specific ESG goal in such a way can result in tangible benefit for wider society and the service provided. In fact, the NHS has said that in reaching its commitments by 2040, there’s the potential to save an estimated 5,770 lives per year from the effects of air pollution, alongside saving an additional 38,400 lives from increased levels of physical activity.

So, how is the progress of ESG in healthcare going so far for the NHS, and how can a digital revolution directly impact the organisation’s use of renewable energy?  

Key Benefits of ESG in Healthcare

From improving sustainability to reducing carbon footprints to improving access to records, here are some of the key benefits of investing in ESG in healthcare sector settings.

1. Supporting Sustainability with Digital Workflows

The UK government is currently investing over £280 million in decarbonising the NHS in England via the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which is being used to power the NHS’ digital transformation. As part of this, new flexible digital logging systems are already being used to monitor the organisation’s progress in reaching its emission goals. Sustainability indicators are reported nationally through systems such as the Greener NHS Dashboard, which includes indicators on factors ranging from building energy use to anaesthetics.

Dashboards and digital workflows such as these are utilising digital solutions to help cut emissions across the NHS, but there is still more to be done in creating a low-carbon digital revolution within healthcare.  

2. Lower Carbon Footprints

Core objectives of the healthcare ESG approach being adopted by the NHS include supporting the digitisation of clinical records, and streamlining clinical and operational workflows. 

In doing so, the NHS is modernising its enormous stockpile of legacy data, utilising medical record scanning and specialist Lloyd George scanning services to transform archaic, paper heavy and resource-focused workflows into flexible low carbon services. The impact this has on our environment cannot be understated: in reducing the sheer amount of physical paper used within the healthcare system, the NHS can drastically reduce its carbon footprint. This will not only significantly minimise the resource of data collection, but also the amount of physical storage required.

A digital solution enables sustainable energy sources to be harnessed, revolutionising the way that data is gathered and collected. With a lower carbon focus, the NHS can ensure that solar, wind and tidal powers are directly feeding workplace structures and workflows. This is just one area of potential for ESG and healthcare.  

The modernisation and migration of data to the ‘hyper-scale cloud’, greatly reduces the NHS’s carbon footprint, while simultaneously transforming both services and the social environment of the workplace.

3. Quicker Access to Clinical Records

Thanks to a greater focus on ESG in healthcare, increased digitisation means that staff are better able to find important records quickly and efficiently, and directly link patient information to ongoing services. This results in a greater quality of service, intake of patients, and lives saved. It also directly impacts the quality of life for staff and members of the public. 

A mentally and physically healthier population correlates to higher employment rates and longer life spans, therefore generating more potential for ongoing innovation and productivity. The longer a person lives the more they contribute to economic growth through work and personal investment. 

Simply put, investing in ESG in healthcare environments directly stimulates economic growth for wider society. Therefore, through technological innovations such as record digitisation, the healthcare sector can greatly contribute to the economic health of society. This is the multi-layered nature of ESG, as health, environment, social wellbeing, and the economy all coalesce to support and improve one another in a complex web of investment. 

How Restore Digital is Supporting ESG in Healthcare 

Through investing in ESG in healthcare settings, and specifically in environmental improvements, the system can go beyond the improvement of physical and mental health. In reducing its carbon footprint, through such services as medical record scanning, the NHS can directly stimulate the economy by keeping the public healthy and sustaining the potential for market innovation.  

At Restore Digital, we support the NHS through our specialist document scanning services, helping organisations to make the transition to a digital-first approach, while focusing less on paper-heavy records and legacy systems. 

We understand the importance of ESG investment because we’re doing it too, and helping our customers deliver the same. We’re committed to becoming net-zero by 2035 and are getting there with help from our ESG partner Planet Mark. Find out more about our own Restore the World ESG Strategy

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