Organizations Commit to Leading Health Care Towards Healthy, Sustainable Future
[Joint Press Release with Practice Greenhealth]
[Portland, Oregon] Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth, two leaders in environmental health, have together divested their fossil fuel investments. Employee retirement plans at both organizations are now free of fossil fuel holdings and previous holdings have been replaced with climate friendly investments.
In her blog, Veronique Nagle, Human Resources Director for both organizations, shares the motivation and difficulties in divesting an organization from its fossil fuel holdings.
“Every day, we advocate for health systems to lead the transition to healthier energy choices,” said Gary Cohen, President and Founder of Health Care Without Harm. “We work with thousands of hospitals throughout the world and we want to show everyone in health care that divestment is an achievable strategy in our efforts to eliminate our societal addiction to fossil fuels and improve global health.”
The burning of fossil fuels is directly responsible for a wide range of serious health impacts and it is a leading driver of climate change. Responsible for 39 percent of all electricity generated, coal in particular causes widespread and significant harm to human health.
Coal-fired power plants are among the most polluting industrial facilities on the planet. A 2010 study by the Clean Air Task Force estimated that air pollution from these plants account for more than 13,000 premature deaths, 20,000 heart attacks, and 1.6 million lost workdays annually in the United States – costing Americans more than $100 billion each year.
“The continued burning of fossil fuels will have a major impact on our food production, water availability, and ability to handle the increased burden of infectious diseases,” said Eric Lerner, Health Care Without Harm’s Climate Program Director. “Divesting from fossil fuel companies sends a strong message that we will not stand by as our health and the health of our planet are threatened.”
Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth join more than 180 institutions that have divested from fossil fuels. Pledges to divest from fossil fuels now top $50 billion in assets, including the British Medical Association and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In 2014, Gundersen Health System and HESTA Australia both announced they are freezing future investments in fossil fuels. A University of Oxford study found that the fossil fuel divestment movement is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign in history.
“Health care’s mission is to protect our health and wellbeing,” said Jeff Brown, Executive Director of Practice Greenhealth. “Given the adverse health consequences and environmental damage caused by fossil fuels, and the ability to have a high-quality financial portfolio without them, it was a necessary and easy decision for us to make.”
“The health sector has an opportunity to stand up for human health as it did 20 years ago when hospitals, health professionals, medical schools, and health organizations divested their tobacco holdings to bring attention to the harm being caused by smoking,” added Mr. Cohen.
About the Transition To Fossil Fuel-Free Investments
Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth now provide employees with a retirement savings benefit that is fossil fuel-free. Employer and employee contributions to the new retirement platform are virtually 100 percent free of any fossil fuel holdings. Previous fund options have been replaced with climate friendly investments free of holdings with companies involved in fossil fuel extraction. The organizations will monitor each fund regularly and the fund line up will be adjusted as necessary to maintain the climate friendly investment policy. Additionally, all organizational investments will be governed by the same fossil fuel-free policy.
For more information contact Benn Grover, Director of Communications
About Health Care Without Harm
Health Care Without Harm works to transform the health sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it becomes ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice. For more information about Health Care Without Harm’s work with health systems on divestment, visit https://noharm-uscanada.org/divestment.
About Practice Greenhealth
Practice Greenhealth is the nation’s leading health care membership community that empowers its members to increase their efficiencies and environmental stewardship while improving patient safety and care through tools, best practices and knowledge.
Cover image by Flickr user CGP Grey.