By Carla Jones, Ashden Communications Assistant
How do you get to become the UK’s greenest hospital? A good start is to have a passionate communicator like Susan Osborne, who has succeeded in galvanising staff throughout the University Hospital of South Manchester (UHSM) to play their part in helping the hospital cut carbon and save money.
Changing staff behaviour, combined with installing new renewable energy technology and increasing energy efficiency, has enabled the hospital, a finalist for the 2012 Ashden Awards, to achieve a reduction of 35% in gas and electricity use over the past five years. Some £390,000 has been saved to boot, releasing vital funds for patient care.
Below are Susan’s top tips on the subject of winning staff hearts and minds in the fight against climate change.
Start with your green champions. Start with your most enthusiastic staff. This will be the half a dozen people in any large organisation who will carry your message through to others for you. If you’re stuck, ask the communications team to help you find them.
Build in fun from the start. People won’t engage in the figures but they’ll love to get involved. We’ve set up allotments, started bee keeping, created a local vegetable market on site, and even got ourselves a hawk called Alice to deter pigeons – all of it is about imagination and fun. Tonight, for instance, we’re about to have an awards ceremony in the hospital where we’ll recognise all sorts of achievement, including providing an award for a green champion. One of the finalists is Alice the Hawk! We love making things a bit barmy – it works for us and staff stay interested.
Don’t stifle imagination. Let everyone contribute ideas and the drive will come from the middle and bottom. The best ideas often come from the most unlikely sources.We’ve had great ideas come from cleaners, consultants, healthcare assistants and CEOs, through a range of channels, like talking to green champions or via an ‘ask the boss’ email address. We try to be open minded about suggestions, not to say no to new ideas immediately but at least try them out. With a staff of 6,000 people we are never going to run out of ideas – in fact we are inundated with them!
Make progress visible and communicate success across staff. Our staff are on different sites and work on different shift patterns, so it was really important to communicate through all of our channels. So for instance we have electric screens, staff daily bulletins and a ‘Start the Week’ announcement from the CEO. All of this shows that top management are behind us and also gives people a chance to be named and recognised.
When we communicate what we’re doing we like to make it fun and easy to understand. We don’t emphasise CO2 emissions, but people trust that they are having a positive impact on the environment.
On top of that, we’ve really taken our green credentials to heart and have completely rebranded so that our marketing is in green; in the summer we’ll be the only green-flamed beacon in the country for the Queen’s Jubilee!
Use vision whenever faced with an opportunity for change. We started with someone with vision who saw an opportunity to install a biomass boiler when we needed to replace our existing one. They convinced the board that it was worth investing in, which set the scene for new ideas.
Reach out into the community. We have a giant marquee in the car park each year. Our ‘Saving Planet Wythenshawe’ (our local area) campaign is great - it gets local children to learn about the hospital and green issues – and with 78% of our staff living in the local community, our work with schools makes a lot of sense. We like to strengthen the triangle between home, schools and hospital to really cement the changes we’re making.
Don’t be limited by money. Our behaviour change drive has been as cheap as chips: the allotments haven’t cost much and the farmer’s market pays for itself. Not only that, when you’re in a time of austerity these activities are a nice distraction for people. And the changes we are making will also save money anyway: we saved £150,000 in the last winter alone, which can all be ploughed back into other services.
Share what you’ve learned. We want to share best practice, and help other hospitals to join the debate and get on board. Last week we had a workshop with other hospitals where we looked at health inequalities and sustainability. We would love a bit of a challenge to our achievement of being the greenest hospital in the Britain. We’ve already achieved a saving of more than 35% in electricity and gas use - so far no one else has come close to that!
Just get on with it! This agenda will not go away. All hospitals are having to start to think about green issues as the government has now put a carbon emission reduction target of 22% on all of them. We are not in the easiest area - we’re in the shadow of an airport and on the fringes of one of the biggest housing estates in Europe. This is not leafy Richmond, it’s the gritty North. If we can do it, anyone can.
Susan is Director of Communications and engagement at UHSM, which is one of eight UK finalists for the 2012 Ashden Awards. Read more about all our UK finalists here.
Come and hear UK finalists speak at this year’s Ashden Conference: Sustainable energy for all: http://ashdenconference2012.eventbrite.com/
Keep up with the pre-awards chatter on twitter: #Ashden12
Watch the awards live via webcast for the first time at green.tv