Towards a sustainable future: More environmental initiatives driven by entities in the BioRegion of Catalonia
For the third year in a row, Biocat addresses the environmental impact of the life sciences and healthcare sector with new initiatives and success stories from various entities in the BioRegion of Catalonia. The goal is to showcase best practices and raise awareness about their responsibility to achieve a 'zero footprint'.
On October 24th, the International Day against Climate Change was celebrated, urging businesses, governments, and citizens to recognize the devastating effects of global warming. The life sciences and health sector has a complex relationship with climate change, simultaneously contributing to human health while impacting the planet's climate health.
Until now, the life sciences and healthcare sector has not been a priority in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, regulatory frameworks and European fund support are driving organizations to implement energy efficiency measures and incorporate renewable energy. According to a study by the Consortium of Health and Social Care of Catalonia (CSC), 67% of entities providing services to public health in Catalonia use renewable energy, and 80% have implemented energy efficiency measures in recent years1. It's challenging to find a center in Catalonia not actively working in this direction, as it ultimately leads to cost savings.
In conjunction with the eighth anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), marking the midpoint of Agenda 20302, we present, for the third consecutive year, new environmental sustainability initiatives identified over the past year in the BioRegion of Catalonia. The aim is to raise awareness in the sector and highlight the good practices undertaken by various ecosystem stakeholders.
10 Initiatives implemented in Catalan hospitals and healthcare centers
"In a city, healthcare centers are the buildings that consume the most energy, especially hospitals, operating 24/7 with intensive use of medical technology and a continuous influx of people3," says Jaume Duran, Director General of the University Hospital of Mollet, a leading center in hospital sustainability that has recently achieved NetZero in direct emissions4. Duran also highlights an interesting fact: "For each day of hospitalization, a sick person generates seven kilograms of solid waste."
Energy, water consumption, and the circular economy are the main areas where healthcare and social entities in Catalonia have developed sustainability actions. Here are ten initiatives and commitments made this year in environmental sustainability in different healthcare centers in Catalonia:
- Hospital Clínic de Barcelona became the first center in Catalonia to incorporateiodinatedd contrast recycling as part of its Environmental Policy, approved in April.
- Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus installed new photovoltaic panels, utilized cold accumulators in clinical laboratories, and implemented measures to reduce single-use plastics in professional dining areas, among others. The winning project of the second edition of the Jo Innovo competition was the 'Container for Selective Collection in Care Carts,' facilitating optimal waste segregation.
- University Hospital of Bellvitge launched a circular economy pilot project to give a second life to linens, part of the ICS Verds sustainability strategy promoted by the Environmental team of the Catalan Institute of Health.
- (Future) Hospital del Mar: The center, set to open in 2030, will feature vegetated roofs covering 2,700 square meters to reduce the building's carbon footprint, photovoltaic panels for self-generated electricity, high-performance LED lighting, and a double skin on the facade to harness natural light.
- Hospital Germans TriasIi Pujol: Committed to reducing the use of plastic bottles by over 2 tons annually.
- Mútua Terrassa introduced biodegradable gloves in its healthcare practice as part of the Green Commitment, decreasing environmental impact through rapid biodegradation. The center has also recently signed an agreement with the Meteorological Service of Catalonia to study the health implications of climate change.
- Hospital de Mataró: Committed to avoiding 137 tons of CO2 annually through measures such as reducing gas consumption for food heating. Currently, the center's remaining energy comes from photovoltaics, steam, and biogas.
- Arnau de Vilanova and Santa Maria Hospitals in Lleida agreed on a surplus food donation protocol.
- Hospitals of Santa Maria de Lleida and Comarcal del Pallars started installing photovoltaic panels.
- Hospital de Figueres and Bernat JaumeSociosanitary Center integrated autonomous robots for floor cleaning, resulting in an 80% reduction in water consumption compared to conventional mop usage.
15 Catalan scientific infrastructures join forces to reduce scientific impact on the environment
Sustainability is a key value for many research centers, institutes, and scientific parks in Catalonia. An example of this commitment to reducing environmental impact is the SuRe network, created in June 2022, where representatives from 15 scientific infrastructures in Catalonia meet monthly to network and share experiences in the field of sustainability in science. "We are working to persuade distributors to use sustainable packaging and optimize material distributions," explains Natalia Artigas, ambassador of My Green Lab5 and co-founder of the project. Currently, they are designing a website and working on their goals to open it to more centers throughout the territory.
The Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) and the Barcelona Science Park (PCB) are two of the 15 infrastructures included in this initiative. PRBB has been working for years to minimize the carbon footprint of such a large building, with over 1,600 people and continuous scientific activity, achieving satisfactory results: "Since 2006, PRBB has consumed 30% less electricity and 40% less natural gas" details Mònica Rodríguez, coordinator of the Sustainability Board of PRBB, in an online seminar reviewing sustainability evolution.
In contrast, the Barcelona Science Park recently integrated sustainability into its strategy, approving its first Sustainability Plan 2022–20256 in December 2022. The plan commits to positive actions such as donating furniture or scientific equipment to third parties, improving buildings and facilities for energy savings, and promoting carpooling to reduce private transport use and associated emissions.
It is also worth noting that IBEC has become the first research center in Spain to certify its labs as sustainable. IBEC's Core Facilities and nine of its research groups have achieved "My Green Lab" certification. According to the organization, all research groups are expected to be certified by 2024.
Environmental sustainability in business: A competitive edge
Ninety-two percent of Catalonia's business fabric is implementing actions or projects related to the SDGs, exceeding the Spanish average (89%). The most-worked areas are SDG 12 (responsible production and consumption) and SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy). This is revealed by a study7 analyzing the implementation level of the SDGs in Catalan companies, presented by ACCIÓ, the Advisory Council for Sustainable Development, and the Spanish Network for the UN Global Compact. According to Joan Romero, Executive Director of ACCIÓ, "sustainable companies have a significant social and environmental impact, but they also have greater business competitiveness."
Examples of initiatives in companies in the sector include Roche's campus in Sant Cugat del Vallès, which has become the first facility in the Swiss pharmaceutical group to be certified CO2 emission-free. According to Adriana Rubio, General Director of Roche Diagnostics Spain, It is equipped with solar panels and has an advanced system to minimize water and energy consumption8.
"ESTEVE is also making efforts to improve its environmental and social responsibility. The company has joined the United Nations' "Caring for Climate" initiative for business leadership on climate change. One of the pharmaceutical company's strategic priorities is to be NetZero by 20509.
As sustainable companies have greater business competitiveness.
Regarding startups in the BioRegion, Integra Therapeutics has recently received the official sustainability certification from My Green Lab10, a certification program legitimizing laboratories that follow sustainable practices. Among the changes made to receive certification are a waste audit, storing all laboratory waste for a week and categorizing it to improve waste management, reviewing reagents to prevent expiration, and replacing environmentally harmful reagents with less harmful alternatives.
To close this article, we'd like to share a piece of news from this month that encourages reflection: The first hospital clinic to treat people affected by pollution has opened in New Delhi, with specialists from various disciplines11. If the sector, along with others, does not incorporate sustainability strategies into its business models and research practices to reduce its environmental impact, this initiative in the world's most polluted capital could pave the way.
1. Energy efficiency and circular economy, main areas of action of the health and social sector in the face of the climate emergency, Consorci de Salut i Social de Catalunya (CSC)
2. The Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations
3. Health cleans up its own CO₂ emissions, La Vanguardia
4. Mollet University Hospital achieves Net Zero in direct emissions
5. My green lab
6. PCB Sustainability Plan 2022-2025
7. Towards a sustainable future: Agenda 2030 and the contribution of Catalan companies to the SDGs
8. Roche invests 51 million in the Sant Cugat campus, which already has 1,300 people, The New Barcelona Post
9. Annual Report 2022, ESTEVE
10. Integra Therapeutics, officially sustainable, Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB)
11. Delhi opens the first clinic to treat patients following pollution, La Vanguardia