Putting Health on the Sustainability Agenda

This article was written by Amy Williams, Manager of Client Experience, London.

We work every day with our clients to support and promote human health, be it through disease awareness, medical education or support for scientific communication and discourse. This goal is important to every one of us. Our environment is intricately linked with our wellbeing; with air and water pollution, extreme weather and rising temperatures all known to undermine health outcomes. It is therefore a logical extension of this that sustainability must be a key focus for the healthcare sector.

Why now?

COP 26 was one of the largest and most important international meetings on climate and sustainability in recent years, and reaffirmed the international will to come together on climate. However, the report published at the end of the meeting mentions health just once, and only fleetingly. Given that healthcare activities are the basis of around 4% of all emissions in high income countries, this seems surprising. What is more, many players in the healthcare industry are clear leaders when it comes to sustainability, and their capacity for research and innovation place them at the very forefront of those able to do something about it.

Achieving sustainability with science

While they may not be in the spotlight, the healthcare sector has nevertheless taken it upon itself to innovate. Pharmaceutical companies and researchers are working to pioneer solutions for many problems, such as the climate impact of inhalers (either by a focus on using models without propellants or developing new ones), and research and development of clean meat technology which has the potential to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of the food that we eat.

So while health may not always be in the spotlight for global conversations surrounding the climate crisis, for many in our industry it is organically taking center stage. What is more, the sustainability stories in our industry are ones of innovation and promise; they are hopeful and inspiring, and can help us achieve the framing that leaders including Sir David Attenborough have called essential to successfully mobilize people to overcome the climate crisis.

Simplifying the complex world of sustainable healthcare

We are lucky to sit in a very special position that can enable us to spread this hope. We are communicators. We want to help put health on the sustainability agenda. There still exists a lot of uncertainty and anxiety around sustainability, and we have an opportunity to help combat this by working with our clients to understand and share the exciting innovation that is ongoing in this sector.  We can also work with brands to identify what more they can be doing to advance the sustainability of their business, and chart a manageable course towards real sustainability.

With COP fresh in everyone’s minds, it seems, or at least is hoped, that countries and companies are finally starting to treat the climate crisis seriously. As satirized in the recent Netflix sensation ‘Don’t Look Up’ it is not denialism but inaction that poses the biggest hurdle in overcoming the climate crisis, reflected tellingly in the lackluster reception for it’s heavy-handedness from critics, but overwhelming approval from climate scientists as an accurate reflection of the challenges they face. As communicators in the healthcare space, as the people who work to make the abstract and complex accessible and understandable, we know we have a unique role to play in working to support and advance sustainability in the sector, and build on the solid foundations and precedents already set by our industry.  

Tell Us: Who do you see as the climate leaders in the healthcare industry?