In today’s health care landscape, an ever-increasing emphasis is placed on the principles of responsible purchasing to protect both human health and the environment in which we live. As one of the sustainable practices in its Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) program, Vizient took a major step toward measuring and voluntarily phasing out toxic chemicals from its portfolio by partnering with the Chemical Footprint Project. 

The Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) is an initiative for measuring corporate chemicals management progress to safer chemicals. It provides a metric for benchmarking companies as they select safer alternatives and reduce their use of chemicals of high concern.

Suppliers interested in participating in the project can opt to take the CFP Assessment Tool, which is comprised of 20 brief questions that measure performance in managing chemicals beyond regulatory compliance in four areas:

  • Management strategy
  • Chemical inventory
  • Footprint measurement
  • Public disclosure and verification

After completion, the respondent receives a score between one and 100, with a detailed report highlighting areas where improvements can be made to an organization’s chemical footprint.

Vizient’s involvement with the CFP began last year when staff attended a symposium sponsored by Kaiser Permanente. At the conclusion, the leader of CFP approached Vizient and asked if they would become a signatory. A signatory operates like an ambassador of the CFP mission, encouraging companies in their unique sphere of influence to participate in the project. For Vizient, that means encouraging suppliers to follow the path of selecting safer alternatives and reducing their use of chemicals of high concern that could be harmful to their patients, workplaces and the environment.

“As the largest GPO in the marketplace, we believe we have the opportunity to share our members’ expectations and influence suppliers to remove hazardous chemicals of concern,” said Brent Gee, associate vice president, strategic programs at Vizient.

To that end, Vizient hosted an education session at its Supplier Summit and asked suppliers to contact them when new products came to market for the purposes of tracking any chemicals that would fall under the scope of the CFP.

“With the Chemical Footprint Project, we’re focused on the ability to track and measure chemicals of high concern,” said Mellissa Nguyen, program services manager at Vizient.  “We do want our suppliers to start reducing the amount of chemicals of high concern and using safer alternatives, but we also need to be able to identify which products contain these chemicals so we can share that valuable information with members.”

Vizient has collected environmental attributes (pieces of detailed product data) during the bid process over the past several years. Gee estimates the data collection spans across 150,000 products and 2.2 million attributes.

“The focus in 2017 is on getting our members access to this data in a form that best meets their needs in making purchase decisions,” Gee said. "Environmentally Preferred Purchasing is about buying products that have less of a negative impact on the environment and on people. We believe we have the opportunity to make a huge contribution in that area,” he added.

Another challenge of fostering EPP support among members is identifying who in an organization is committed to ensuring adherence to the EPP principles. Oftentimes, these representatives are those who have a passion for sustainability/being green and do it alongside their normal workload. In Vizient’s case, some of the individuals serving on its Environmental Advisory Council include dieticians, nutritionists or facilities management professionals.

“It’s rare that an organization has a dedicated resource to manage the sustainability practices of the EPP; and usually the most difficult thing is to identify who has a passion or has the time and/or energy to carry the sustainability torch,” Nguyen said.

Yet for the challenges and obstacles, successes also exist. NorthShore University Health System and Yale-New Haven Hospital are two examples of member organizations that saw a problem and worked to remove that chemical from their facility. In the case of NorthShore, the chemical in question was triclosan, a common ingredient often used as an antimicrobial agent in soaps, detergents and surgical cleaning instruments. At Yale, the use of diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), a compound used in plastic products, was identified as a chemical that must be eliminated from the organization.

In both cases, the actions taken by the member resulted in fulfilling the principles of the CFP and improving the environment.

“The members we serve expect products that are safe and healthy, both for them and for the environment. The EPP program at Vizient enables us to work together with our suppliers and members to measure our progress on the journey to safer chemicals, contributing to the best possible care for our members’ patients and caregivers as well as the well-being of our planet,” Gee said.

To learn more about our broad portfolio of cost-effective, environmentally preferred products, contact our team today.

Published: January 26, 2017