UnitingCare is committed to protecting the environment, and using energy and resources wisely. Our sustainability ethos is embedded in our foundations as the health and community service provider of the Uniting Church—in 1977, the Uniting Church in Australia’s inaugural Statement to the Nation advocated for the wise use of energy and protection of the environment. This commitment to stewardship has been reaffirmed and strengthened through statements such as the 2018 Whole of Creation, which supports strong and specific actions to tackle climate change.
At UnitingCare, we recognise that the health and wellbeing of our residents, patients, clients and staff is inextricably linked to the health of our planet. We recognise that our mission to improve the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities must extend beyond frontline services – we must also promote and preserve a healthy environment, by reducing our carbon footprint, improving resource efficiency, enabling climate resilience, and greening our built environments.
UnitingCare’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2021-2025 outlines six focus areas, each underpinned by tangible goals that support our vision to create a healthier, fairer, and greener world.
- Reduce fleet fuel usage to 4.5 litres per 100 km
- Transition to 100% hybrid and electric passenger fleet
- Divert from landfill 30% of the non-clinical waste we generate
- Reduce waste generation by 5% at our hospitals and aged care facilities
- Reduce our carbon footprint by 70%
- Source 100% of our electricity from renewable energy
Greening UCQ is UnitingCare’s internal sustainability program, which captures the multitude of initiatives we are implementing to reduce our impacts across energy, emissions, waste and water. Recent examples include:
Carbon footprint and energy
- Since 2017 we have installed solar PV on 21 of our facilities, and have committed to sourcing 100% of our electricity generation from renewable sources by 2025.
- Between 2019 and 2020, we installed over 11,000 energy-efficient LED light bulbs across our hospitals and aged care facilities. This initiative has delivered better amenity and annual cost savings of more than $300,000, as well as avoiding 1,610,580 kWh and 1,288 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) each year.
- UnitingCare has been gradually transforming its passenger fleet to smaller and more eco-friendly vehicles – in 2020, 59% of our fleet are hybrid vehicles, avoiding over 1,000 tCO2e per year.
- New niche recycling streams continue to be rolled out at our hospitals, which are now diverting PVC (e.g. IV bags), expired medical consumables, batteries, X-rays, KIMGUARD, and compression stockings from landfill.
- DocuSign – an electronic signature tool – is being progressively rolled out across the organisation. Thanks to this tool, Blue Care avoided over 12,000 sheets of paper in 2020.
- Through Lifeline Retail’s core business of rehoming pre-loved goods, we prevent hundreds of tonnes of resources from being discarded in landfill each year.
- Large under-desk bins have been replaced with small desktop ‘eco bins’ at our group office, to encourage staff to rethink their waste and use central recycling bins.
- Activities (e.g. competitions, workshops, calls to action) to promote participation in awareness campaigns such as Earth Hour, World Environment Day, and National Recycling Week.
- Our Green Champions network encourages and provides support to staff to implement positive sustainability changes in their workplace.
- The 2018 Greening UCQ survey asked our staff to share their experiences and ideas about sustainability in their workplaces; the results have helped us understand our current level of staff engagement in sustainability, and will shape our 2018 – 2020 environmental action plan.
Leadership and advocacy
UnitingCare is actively engaged in advocacy and policy development on issues such as energy planning, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
- We have been awarded a grant to deliver two pilot projects under the Queensland Government's Health and Wellbeing Climate Adaptation Plan (H-CAP). These projects aim to prevent or reduce the impact of extreme heat on vulnerable older people, through ‘green’ infrastructure and community outreach.
- In 2020, UnitingCare made a submission to the Queensland Government in support of its proposed single-use plastic ban on plates, cutlery, straws and stirrers (with exemptions for therapeutic applications).
- We represent our client and community groups in advisory forums such as the Energy Queensland Customer Council, Queensland Health and Wellbeing Climate Adaptation Plan, and QCOSS Social Vulnerability and Climate Change workshops.
- We are sharing the lessons learned from our sustainability efforts at industry conferences, collaboration forums and in the tertiary sector.
UnitingCare has been recognised nationally and globally for its leadership in climate change mitigation:
- Energy Globe Award – National Winner (2019)
- Healthcare Climate Challenge Award – Silver Climate Change Leadership (2019)
- Healthcare Climate Challenge Award – Silver Climate Change Leadership (2020)