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New Dutch Green Deal signed to boost sustainability in healthcare

A new Green Deal has been signed between the Dutch government, public bodies and companies in the healthcare sector, including pharmaceutical companies. It is designed to give sustainability in the healthcare sector a further push.

The ‘Working together on sustainable care’ agreement, also known as Green Deal 3.0, has extended the industry signatories to the pharmaceutical sector and set out more ambitious sustainability goals for public bodies, private companies and non-profit organisations in the healthcare sectors.

Under the latest deal, parties have agreed on goals and actions for the period between 2023 and 2026. They have committed to five main goals – focusing more on the health of patients and employees; increasing the awareness and knowledge of the healthcare sector’s environmental impact; reducing CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030 with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050; reducing the use of raw materials by 50% in 2030 compared to 2016; and reducing the environmental impact through medication usage.

“Sustainability is a very important topic in all sectors. With the new Green Deal, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies will take sustainability issues even more seriously. It is great to see that parties are committed to provide healthcare services and pharmaceutical products with the highest level of efforts in limiting the environmental footprint for this and future generations,” said life sciences legal expert Judith Krens of Pinsent Masons.

The Dutch government’s statistics show that the healthcare sector is responsible for about 7 per cent of the CO2 emissions. In addition, 4% of the waste in the Netherlands and 13% of the use of raw materials comes from healthcare. By providing care, the sector contributes to the climate crisis. There is a real urgency for the healthcare sector to take actions to reduce its climate impact, according to Krens.

“This ‘3.0’ version of the deal emphasises the urgency of taking more serious steps in the right direction. It is important to take a careful look at the waste which is produced in the healthcare sector, varying from huge amounts of medical disposables to throwing away of unused pharmaceuticals,” said Krens.

“Taking steps to reduce waste however does cause friction as hygiene and safety are crucial in healthcare. Recycling may be very expensive and require complicated technical solutions. However, companies could also focus more on the front end of the life cycle and reduce the use of raw materials. The ambitions are great, but they need to be converted in concrete action for different businesses,” Krens added.

She suggested that private companies should focus more on reducing their carbon footprint, while insurance companies may include sustainability in their tender requirements and governments could offer financial incentives to stimulate sustainable healthcare solutions.

The Dutch healthcare sector first agreed on a Green Deal on sustainable healthcare in 2018, and it was expanded in 2019 with four pillar objectives. More than 200 Dutch parties have signed the agreement, including healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, and a range of profit and non-profit organisations.

“Green Deal 3.0 is more ambitious than its predecessors. Green Deal 1.0 (2015) and Green Deal 2.0 (2018) were both more focused on awareness and developing ideas for sustainable healthcare. Green Deal 3.0 calls for action with more goals to which the parties signing the deal commit themselves.

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