Can Health Execs Help Offset Climate-Change Threat? | Deloitte US has been saved
By Elizabeth Baca, M.D., M.P.A., specialist leader, Deloitte Consulting, LLP
It has been four years since I helped plan the Global Climate Action Summit—one of the first such events of its size to address some of the health implications of climate change.1 This global initiative, which was spearheaded by then-California Governor, Jerry Brown (D), was anchored in action. The goal was to build a more sustainable environment. We brought together leaders from all sectors, including health care, to make commitments to address climate change. There was a recognition that these commitments could have a positive impact on health in the near-term.
There is wide agreement that climate change is having a negative impact our health and well-being. A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change includes some of the latest statistics about climate change and creates a sense of urgency.2,3 The link between climate change, public health, and health inequities is becoming difficult to ignore. There is also increased attention, particularly over the last several months, on the need to address climate change now.
Executives are increasingly concerned about climate change
Late last year, Deloitte interviewed more than 2,000 sustainability leaders across 21 countries. Close to 80% of them agreed that the world was “at a tipping point to act.” Within this leadership group, we interviewed 208 life sciences and health care executives. As I noted in a blog last fall, health care organizations are significant contributors to climate change, accounting for an estimated 8-10% of total emissions in the US, and 5% globally. The vast majority of these executives (93%) expect that climate change will impact their strategy and operations over the next three years, and 97% said their organization had already been impacted. (See our 2022 CxO sustainability report.)
What can be done?
One of the first steps in addressing climate change is to recognize enterprise strategy is also climate strategy. From digital transformation work to care model innovation, climate and environment should be considered. As we highlight in our new report, Why climate resilience is key to building the health care organization of the future, there are three interrelated strategies—mitigation, adaptation, and transformation—that can help reduce operational risks related to climate change. These strategies can also help to improve an organization’s readiness for the future and improve health and health equity in the near-term.
Leaders across the health ecosystem helped to lay out a path to illustrate what is possible across each of these three strategies:
There is still time for optimism
Climate change represents a significant threat to global public health. COVID-19 demonstrated how our lives can be significantly disrupted by unexpected events. Climate change has the potential for even greater disruption. However, I remain optimistic. Over the past several months, I have noticed increased attention from investors to boards to grass roots advocacy groups that are taking action against climate change.
In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed a new rule that would require publicly traded companies to disclose information about their greenhouse gas emissions, as well as details about how climate change is affecting their business. I see this proposal as another important step forward. We still have a long path ahead and a lot of work, but I feel that we are moving in the right direction.
April 22 is the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day, and I’m encouraged to see that many health care leaders are looking for ways to keep our planet—and its residents—healthy. Nearly 90% of the leaders we surveyed for our report agree that with immediate action we can limit the worst impacts of climate change. Happy Earth Day…here’s to our health!
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1 The Global Climate Action Summit 2018, https://www.nrdc.org/global-climate-action-summit
2 New IPCC report highlights urgency of climate change impacts, Yale Climate Connections, February 28, 2022
3 Climate change 2022: Impacts, adaption, and vulnerability, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, February 2022