Hackensack Meridian gets serious on sustainability

Last month, four Hackensack Meridian Health hospitals became the first in the nation to earn a sustainable healthcare certification from The Joint Commission. Now, the Edison, N.J.-based health system is set to own the largest solar and battery energy storage system of any nonprofit provider in the country. 

As part of a new, $134 million investment in infrastructure improvements, Hackensack plans to install 50,000 U.S.-manufactured solar panels in each of its 18 hospitals. The health system has partnered with Bernhard, one of the largest private infrastructure firms in the U.S., for the 30-year investment. The project is being funded through an $84 million upfront payment from Bernhard and $50 million through tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act. 

"By the end of the year, we're going to be installing our first solar panels as part of this project," Robert Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, told Becker's. When complete, the solar panels will cover an area equivalent to roughly 27 football fields. 

"This is a huge deal," he said. "The panels produce zero greenhouse gas emissions" and will lead to a reduction in energy costs and carbon emissions produced by the health system. 

Specifically, the goals of the agreement include a 10% reduction in carbon emissions, a 25% decrease in electricity costs, and 33% in guaranteed energy savings. The project marks the health system's latest commitments to spearheading environmental sustainability advancements in healthcare — an industry that is responsible for nearly 9% of carbon emissions in the U.S.  

In 2022, Hackensack was among 61 healthcare organizations that signed a White House pledge to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. 

"This partnership puts Hackensack Meridian Health on course to meet critical sustainability and energy resilience goals — complementing the state's initiatives to invest in renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint," Gov. Phil Murphy said in a news release on the new investment.

With 4 in 5 clinicians indicating they want their hospitals to address climate change, there's also an employee engagement component to the health system's sustainability focus. 

"Recruiters hear from candidates they want to work for an organization that really is committed to addressing climate change and sustainability being a priority," Mr. Garrett said. "It's a factor we do hear about regularly in our team member surveys."

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