Which role laboratories play in meeting sustainability goals
The sustainability strategies of clinical laboratories are crucial to reducing the environmental burden of the healthcare sector, according to a panel of global leaders speaking at the ‘Sustainability in the clinical lab conference’ at Medlab Middle East 2023. Laboratories were under the spotlight of this discussion due to their high energy and water requirements and the use of disposables and plastic materials.
Medlab 2023 is championing sustainability with a show theme of ‘paving the way for technological advancements and sustainability in laboratory medicine’. Opening the session was Prof. Damien Gruson, head of the department of Clinical Biochemistry of the Cliniques Universitaires Saint Luc, Brussels, and Dr Rana Nabulsi, Head of Operations and Quality-Pathology and Genetics at Dubai Health Authority (DHA), she said: “Climate change is a big responsibility for us all. It is a global issue that we all need to devote our attention, commitment, and leadership.
“2023 is mandated by the UAE Government to be the ‘year of sustainability’, and Dubai will host COP 28 in November this year. This crisis is going beyond national borders, and we have to build leadership at the top to keep our planet safe, save resources for future generations, improve biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions.”
Other speakers at the conference included Dr Bernard Gouget, Assistant Professor, Fédération Hospitalière de France, who led a session on Green labs and how to get started. He said: “Sustainability is now becoming a way of life as the global concern for the environment grows. Medical labs are an important part of hospitals and healthcare systems, so we must be engaged in this dynamic area.
“It is essential to distinguish between ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’. Green practices are, of course, very important for the environment, but sustainability addresses the long-term picture for future generations,” he added.
According to Gouget, there are many ways in which a lab can address sustainability. Following international guidelines from bodies such as the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) was outlined as one of the main strategies at the session.
The two preferred tools for labs are ISO 26000-2010, which provides social responsibility guidelines such as transparency, ethical behaviour, human rights and respect for stakeholder interests. Meanwhile, ISO 14001-2015 focuses on Environmental Management Systems (EMS). EMS adoption also offers potential commercial advantages by reducing the risk of government-imposed fines, lowering energy consumption, improving resource efficiency and optimising waste management processes
Dr Naser Ammash, Chief Executive Officer, Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC), Abu Dhabi, offered an interesting perspective on sustainability in the context of the wider medical setting.
He said: “The primary value of a physician is to meet the needs of our patient, and for me, the definition of sustainability is how can we meet the needs of our patients without compromising the needs of future doctors, healthcare providers and patients. Healthcare organisations contribute significantly to carbon emissions. 80% of these emissions come from what we buy, such as food, water and pharmaceuticals.”
Patient screening is also a significant consideration for sustainability in the healthcare setting, and adhering to strict criteria when it comes to testing, is vital, according to Ammash: “Unnecessary testing increases energy consumption, uses more hospital resources and brings about a greater cost environmentally and financially.”
Following the session, the Medlab 2023 Lab Sustainability Awards winners were announced. The shortlisted entries were PHC Laboratories, the Dubai Blood Donation Centre, and Dubai Police Laboratory, which were awarded the gold award, Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City with silver and Medical Fitness Laboratories, bronze.
The Lab Sustainability Awards encourages action on a range of sustainable laboratory areas and links to one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By participating in the Lab Sustainability Awards, entrants are directly contributing to helping achieve the SDGs.