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Think Green

At CUH we're making great strides in thinking differently and taking action for a sustainable future.

We are constantly reviewing what we consume and how we consume in order to ensure that, in delivering our services, the Trust is always doing what it can to:

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half in the next ten years, and almost entirely in the next 30 years, in order to keep the probability of the dangerous impacts of climate change within safe limits;
  • control the pollution of the air, land and water so that it does not endanger health;
  • carefully manage our draw on natural resources so that they do not become irreversibly damaged or depleted.

Each of the above are very significant and pressing risks to our wellbeing, habitat and all the other habitats and wider ecosystems upon which we depend. The risks are established and connected by the utilities, goods and materials we consume. This makes them very difficult risks to reduce. What we consume, and how we consume it, is deeply embedded in the day-to-day running of our hospitals and the day-to-day living of everyone involved as staff, patients or visitors.  At CUH, as with most organisations, our ability to function is down to being able to consume the goods, materials and utilities we need to deliver the services that make up our business – the business of using public money to return people to good health and to keep them that way.

CUH is a very intense consumer of energy, water, goods and materials. Front-line patient care, and all the associated support functions and campus infrastructure, mean that CUH consumes at the rate of a small town. This in itself brings a significant element of responsibility to ensure that the Trust’s consumption is as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

What we consume at CUH hinges upon the ‘flow’ of utilities, goods, materials and transport.  These are all vital material flows that CUH’s staff need to deliver safe, kind and excellent healthcare to all their patients: 24 hours of the day, 365 days of the year. The Trust consumes at a consistently high level in terms of the volume of these flows and the complexity of connections that need to be made in servicing all aspects of healthcare provision across the site. What matters is doing it in ways that are genuinely sustainable.

To carry on providing a safe, kind and excellent service whilst significantly reducing the resultant environmental impacts could be seen as one of the hardest challenges faced in the hospitals’ 250-year history.

Policy, partnership and collaboration


One of the ways in which an organisation can embed sustainability is through the use of a Sustainable Development Management Plan (SDMP). The Trust’s Board adopted the CUH SDMP in 2013 and covers the period up to 2020.

An SDMP is supported and augmented by a range of more subject-specific policies and procedures. These include an extensive Transport Strategy that appropriately embraces the wider Cambridge Biomedical Campus and our site partners.

Other key documents include the Trust’s Environmentally Sustainable Design and Construction Protocol, the Waste Management Policy and Waste Disposal Procedures, and several policies relating to aspects of energy and water management. These are all refreshed and updated on a regular basis.

Sustainability is now referenced within the Trust’s tender preparation guidance. Procurement procedures are being developed to ensure that lifecycle costings are appropriately covered in relation to energy, waste, water and transportation.

The Sustainable Development Unit for the health and care system in England ran a full consultation exercise to review and update its valuable Good Corporate Citizenship guide. The Trust usefully contributed to this process and the new Sustainable Development Assessment Tool (SDAT) stands to be an important route to re-assessing corporate coverage of the sustainability agenda at CUH. A full assessment, using the SDAT, will be carried out and the results will provide vital evidence and direction in the re-drafting of the SDMP for the period 2020-2025.

Climate change brings new challenges to our business both in direct effects to the healthcare estate, and also to patient health. Examples from recent years include the effects of heat waves, and the extreme surface water flooding event of 17 July 2015. Our SDMP identifies the need for the development of a Board approved adaptation plan for future climate change risks affecting our area. Key elements of this will be the Surface Water Management Plan, currently being reviewed in collaboration with the Cambridge City Council, a site-wide Water Resource Management Study (currently being finalised) and continuing work on environmental cooling.

Partnership and collaboration

Partnerships, networks of shared interest and less formal collaborative working arrangements are fundamental aspects of the route to sustainability for any organisation and the communities it serves. This point is very clearly made in the Trust’s SDMP. Actions for a more sustainable world make little impact in isolation. Sustainability is for everyone.

Some responses are very technical whilst others are just about ‘doing the right thing’ as we go about our lives. Everything from upgrading the gas burners in our steam-generating boilers to simply putting what we see as rubbish into the correct bin so that it can be properly recycled. No one wants to waste resources, experience pollution, see our natural environment decline or face the dangerous impacts of climate change. The Trust recognises that the responsibility to prevent this happening is not something that one department, one team of ‘green champions’ or one hospital can shoulder on its own. Reaching out and searching for support that works in both directions across all our healthcare colleagues, patients and visitors, and our partners in the public, private, voluntary and community sectors is essential to an environmentally sustainable future.

We currently have productive or potentially productive relationships for the purposes of advancing environmental sustainability with the following external partners: Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambridge County Council, Greater Cambridge Partnership, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Connecting Cambridgeshire, NHS Sustainable Development Unit, East of England NHS Regional Sustainability Network, East of England Health Estates and Facilities Management Association, Cambridge Sustainable Food, Cambridge Carbon Footprint, Cambridge Cycling Campaign, University of Cambridge, Cambridge Judge Business School Circular Economy Centre,  Anglia Ruskin University, University of Sussex, Medical Research Council, AstraZeneca, Royal Papworth Hospital, National Union of Students, Cambridge Cleantech and local community groups.