Gundersen Goes Green

Wisconsin-based health system freezes future fossil fuel investments 

Gundersen Health System CEO Jeff Thompson, MD, announced on September 22 that the organization was freezing future corporate investments in fossil fuels. He was speaking as part of a panel discussion during the Civil Society Event on Action in Climate Change and Health ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York. Other panel participants included U.S. EPA chief Gina McCarthy, Maria Neira of the World Health Organization, and acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak.

Shortly after Jeff Thompson made the announcement, Wallace Global Fund held a press conference where more than 50 foundations, institutions, and wealthy individuals announced they will divest more than $50 billion worth of fossil fuel assets.

Thompson says the move is to further Gundersen’s efforts to promote sustainability as a healthy, socially responsible and economically beneficial strategy. “Our board and finance committee have looked at this and are willing to freeze all future investments in fossil fuels.”

“The health of a region goes beyond taking care of people who come through our doors and need the critical services we provide,” says Michael Allen, Gundersen’s chief financial officer. “We know the majority of factors that determine our health exist outside the walls of a clinic or medical center – factors such as genetics, lifestyle choices and our environment. So our responsibility for the health of the region extends to all of these elements.”

“We will not liquidate or reduce any current investments, but we will not expand our investments in organizations producing fossil fuels either,” Allen continues. “We’ve made a commitment to renewable sources of energy that are both sustainable and lower the level of harmful emissions. It's walking the talk. Every little bit counts.”

Gundersen’s investments are used to update equipment and buildings, maintain a strong credit rating, finance future opportunities, and more.

The new investment approach is in step with Gundersen’s ongoing efforts to set the standard for environmental stewardship in healthcare and other industries nationwide.