SDU Business Plan

SDU business plan

Sustainable development is an approach that helps us to work today in a way that doesn't make tomorrow harder. As modelling and prediction techniques improve, we are learning more about how we are contributing to global issues, including climate change and depleting resources, community cohesion and resilience, and economic strength or weakness. We are also learning how we will be impacted by them, and often how we already are seeing their effects.

The work of the SDU aims to ensure that the health and care system is working today to make sure we are lessening our negative contributions to these issues (mitigation) and ensuring that we are prepared to cope with problems that will arise (adaptation). 

Currently the SDU is focussing on 4 particular areas of work:

  1. Carbon
  2. Air pollution
  3. Waste
  4. Plastics

These 4 areas are of particular interest for the SDU because they are key contributors to issues such as climate change and resource depletion, and also have important interactions with human health. You can find out more about each of these areas below. 





1. Carbon

Carbon dioxide is a key greenhouse gas. This means that it has a large part to play in global warming and climate change. Carbon is released by almost every human activity. 

We know from our reports that the health and social care carbon footprint makes up 3-6% of the carbon footprint of the whole of England. The legal carbon reduction targets set by the Climate Change Act (2008) state that we must reduce our carbon emissions by 34% by 2020. 

The system has made good progress, reducing carbon emissions by 18.5% between 2007 and 2017, despite a 24% increase in activity. However, efforts must be redoubled if we are to meet these ambitious, and imperative, targets. 

See more information and details of our work in the slides below. 





2. Air pollution

We know that the NHS contributes to local air pollution through travel and transport, as well as static sources such as energy or heat generation. Air pollution is made up of several different gases and materials, some of which contribute to climate change and some of which have significant impact on human health and wellbeing. Nitrous oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) have been linked in research to a wide array of illnesses and disorders, from asthma to cancer to dementia. 

Air pollution comes from many different sources, but travel and transport and energy/heat generation are the two most significant sources for the NHS. 

See more information and details of our work in the slides below. 




3. Waste

NHS providers generated nearly 590,000 tonnes of waste in 2016/17, of which 85% avoided going directly to landfill and 23% was recycled. The vast majority of NHS waste is now either incinerated or used for energy generation. 

With such a large output of waste each year, it is important that the NHS is taking seriously its commitment to use resources responsibly. This means that reducing waste also encompasses how we purchase and use things. A key hotspot in waste is plastics, so much so that we have made it the SDU's 4th priority. 


4. Plastics

Single-use plastics became a very hot news topic in 2017 and 2018, because of the huge amount that is used and its few and substandard options for disposal. We are specifically working on how the NHS reduces the amount of single-use plastics it uses, while maintaining its high quality care. 

See more information and details of our work in the slides below.


2018/19 so far...


Other useful links and information

  • The 2018 Lancet Countdown outlines key metrics and indices showing the impact that climate change is already having on human health.
  • The IPCC Special Report shows that the next 12 years are crucial to limit climate change.
  • The NHS long-term plan will soon be published. Keep an eye out for updates. 
  • Stay updated with sustainable health and care by signing up to our bulletins.