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Nursing regulator aiming to lead health sector on decarbonisation

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has published a series of sustainability pledges, as it aims for carbon neutrality by 2030 and net zero by 2040.

The regulator has published a series of targets relating to the environmental impact of its operations, in an attempt to lead the rest of the health sector by example.

“We want to be leading the way in encouraging and supporting sustainable change across the sector”

Andrea Sutcliffe

The NMC said that, so far, it was already making “good progress” in moving to more energy efficient buildings, using low and zero-carbon energy sources and reducing waste.

Currently, the regulator was responsible for around 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in the 2022-23 financial year, which is roughly in line with the standard for an organisation of its size.

However, the regulator outlined in a new sustainability publication that it planned to go further and set the goal of becoming a leader in decarbonisation.

NMC outlined six priority areas for reducing its carbon footprint: estate, technology, supply chain, business travel, colleagues and investments.

NMC chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe said she hoped her organisation’s renewed focus on reducing its carbon footprint would “lead the way” to encourage sustainable practise across the sector and reduce poor health outcomes due to air pollution or other climate-related issues.

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“One of the most affecting moments in my time at the NMC was speaking to Rosamund, the mother of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah who, after sadly dying at age nine, was the first person in the world to have air pollution cited as a cause of death,” Ms Sutcliffe said.

“Her tragic death and Rosamund’s campaign about the health impacts of air pollution reinforce the essential connection between our aim to improve everyone’s health and wellbeing and our responsibility to address environmental issues.”

Tell us your ideas on how to improve sustainability in the NHS

The next chapter of our Manifesto by Nurses is focusing on the issue of sustainability in health and social care. Our manifesto is gathering thoughts from nurses on the policies and pledges they want to see from political parties leading up to the next general election, expected to be called this year.

To provide your ideas for the sustainability chapter, click or tap here to take part before Monday, 25 March.

Alternatively, send your send your ideas in no more than 300 words to nursingtimesmanifesto@gmail.com, along with your full name, job role, location and a high-resolution picture of yourself.

Please note that, by doing so, you are agreeing to be potentially named, quoted and pictured in Nursing Times, both online and in our print publications.

The regulator said it aimed to transfer all its data to cloud storage by 2025 and to move to a net zero provider by 2030, adding that the use of data centre services accounted for 46% of its current total carbon footprint.

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On estates, the regulator set itself the goal of switching to 100% renewable energy for its buildings, eliminating gas heating and reducing waste.

The NMC highlighted that onsite heating generation and purchased electricity were two of its major areas for improvement.

In particular, the regulator said it was set to refurbish 23 Portland Place, its largest and oldest building, with sustainability in mind.

This refurbishment would include improved insulation, more energy efficient lighting, more sustainable air conditioning and other material changes.

By 2035, the NMC pledged that all of its buildings would be using 100% zero-carbon electricity and that their energy use would be reduced by 35% by 2030.

The regulator said another priority would be to reduce air travel within England, Scotland and Wales by 80% by 2028.

Business travel currently accounts for 3.4% of the body’s total carbon emissions. Of that portion, 63% came from air travel. To do this, NMC said staff would switch to train travel for mainland UK journeys.

As well as this, it pledged to provide all of its staff with information on sustainable working from home by 2026 and to increase cycling and walking to work by 25% by 2026 within the organisation.

For the supply chain priority area, the NMC pledged to ensure 80% of the money it spent was with suppliers with “public net zero commitments for 2040 as a minimum”, by 2030.

To achieve financial stability, the NMC – like many public organisations including local authorities and the government – has a pot of money for investing in stocks, companies and other tradable commodities.

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The NMC said it would be reviewing and updating its “ethical investment policy” by the end of 2024, to ensure it was not contributing negatively to climate change through its investments.

To this end, the organisation said it would monitor the carbon emissions associated with the investments it makes and make changes where one has a high carbon footprint.

As well as reducing its use of carbon, the regulator said it would be investing in carbon offsets such as tree planting and direct carbon capture technology at a cost of around £90,000-£130,000 by the 2030-31 financial year, falling to an estimated £40,000-£80,000 by 2039-40 as NMC’s own emissions fall.

Ms Sutcliffe added: “We know this issue is important to nurses, midwives and nursing associates.

“We want to be leading the way in encouraging and supporting sustainable change across the sector, for the benefit of both the professionals on our register and the people they care for, for generations to come.”

Nursing Times Awards 2024

We are delighted to welcome entries for the first time in our new Sustainability in Nursing and Midwifery category at the 2024 Nurising Times Awards.

This award seeks to recognise an individual or small group or team of nurses or midwives that has made an exceptional contribution to promoting sustainability and green issues.

You can find more information about all the categories and how to enter by visiting the Nursing Times Awards website. You have until midnight on Friday 10 May 2024 to submit your entry.

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