On September 18, 2023, The Joint Commission announced a Sustainable Healthcare Certification (SHC) for hospitals in the United States, effective January 1, 2024. The SHC is intended to encourage hospitals to engage in sustainable practices as well as provide recognition for hospitals' commitment to environmental sustainability.
The Joint Commission stated: "The certification's national standards and elements of performance establish needed structure, rigor and accountability to accelerate the industry's growing sustainability efforts. The program includes setting priorities and governance for sustainability initiatives, creating baselines to measure three sources of [greenhouse gas] emissions and developing an action plan to reduce them."
Both Joint Commission accredited and non-Joint Commission accredited hospitals and critical access hospitals will be able to participate in the SHC program. The program is voluntary and is not a requirement for Joint Commission accreditation.
Sustainable Healthcare Certification program
Requirements for certification
In order to qualify for the certification, a hospital must be in the United States, operated by the US government or operated under a charter of the US. Congress. Further, the hospital must be compliant with federal law. On the date of the review, the hospital must have data in connection with three (3) green house gas emissions sources as well as an associated action plan to reduce emissions. And finally, the organization must have 24 months of data that demonstrates a reduction in the three (3) greenhouse gas emissions sources identified.
The Joint Commission highlighted several anticipated benefits of the program:
- Environmental. The SHC program encourages hospitals to reduce their environmental footprint. Through implementation of sustainable practices, hospitals can contribute to environmental conservation.
- Costs. Certain environmentally sustainable practices can result in reduced costs. Hospitals may also benefit from tax incentives intended to promote sustainability.
- Health. Sustainable practices can lead to less chemical exposures, improved air quality and infection control measures that can improve the health of patients and staff.
- Reputation. The SHC program demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability that can benefit hospitals' reputation in their communities.
Clean energy tax incentives
In connection with adopting more sustainable practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the SHC, hospitals may also be able to take advantage of tax incentives. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provides tax incentives for hospitals that invest in sustainability projects. Hospitals can benefit from certain Clean Energy Tax Incentives, including tax credits for investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.
Hospitals interested in the SHC program can complete a pre-application form now. The pre-application form allows hospitals to provide the date they anticipate they will be ready for a site visit and enter the scheduling queue. This form can benefit organizations that anticipate being ready for an earlier review. The formal application will open January 1, 2024.
In the meantime, hospitals can prepare for the SHC program. The Joint Commission offers a Sustainable Healthcare Resource Center, which provides tools hospitals can utilize to implement sustainable practices. Among these resources, Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies offers tools for hospitals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the realms of transportation, building and energy use, anesthetic gases and waste.
The Norton Rose Fulbright healthcare team has experience helping hospitals with Joint Commission accreditation and certifications. Our team is available to assist hospitals prepare for the SHC program as well as other Joint Commission accreditations and certifications.