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.
We recognise that reducing our carbon footprint and becoming more resource efficient—using less energy and water, and producing less waste and emissions—are essential to promoting healthy and sustainable environments for our clients, patients, and communities. In particular, as an organisation whose services are focused on vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, the inequality caused by climate change makes reducing carbon emissions a priority for UnitingCare.
As part of our 2018—2020 Environmental Sustainability Strategy, UnitingCare has committed to the following goals:
- Reduce our carbon footprint by 5% by 2020 (compared to 2017 baseline)
- Increase our recycling rate to 30% by 2020 (compared to 2017 baseline)
- Increase staff engagement in sustainability initiatives by 10% by 2020 (compared to 2018 baseline)
- Strengthen our engagement in environmental advocacy and leadership by 2020
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
- 2017: LED lighting upgrades implemented at The Wesley and St Andrews War Memorial Hospital car parks, saving $50,000 and avoiding 252 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) each year.
- 2017: $460,000 invested in a pilot project of energy conservation measures (ECMs), including 144 kW of installed solar PV. This is saving more than 270,000 kWh of electricity and $111,000 in operating costs each year.
- 2018: Following the success of the pilot, UnitingCare committed a further $3.5 million investment to scale the rollout of ECMs across our portfolio. This will reduce our environmental footprint by a further 1,615,000 kWh and 1,500 tCO2e annually by the end of FY20.
- UnitingCare has been gradually transforming its passenger fleet to smaller and more eco-friendly vehicles—in 2018, 40% of our fleet are hybrid vehicles, avoiding over 460,000 litres of fuel and 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.
- Waste audits have been conducted at our largest hospitals, to understand our waste profile and identify improvement priorities and strategies.
- 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 currently 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. We are also passionate about knowledge sharing—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; in 2019, we were awarded:
- Energy Globe Award – National Winner
- Healthcare Climate Challenge Award – Silver Climate Change Leadership