Last updated:

Sustainability and health

We recognise that we have a responsibility to promote and adopt organisational policies that support sustainable practices and improve health. Here you can find out what it means to us and what we are doing about it.

  • What does sustainability mean for us?

    It is the management and coordination of environmental, social and financial demands and concerns in a way that promotes health and ensures responsible, ethical and ongoing success.

  • What are we trying to achieve?

    • Position us as a 'good corporate citizen' in the community to promote a positive profile and public support
    • Lead by example in developing sustainability policies that promote the health benefits of low-carbon living
    • Develop binding and enforceable carbon footprint reduction guidelines
    • Implement measures to promote energy efficiency, including processes to maximise re-use and recycling
    • Encourage and facilitate sustainable forms of transport
    • Reduce the hidden costs generated from unnecessary energy use and waste
    • Manage any risks to the environment to avoid, minimise or mitigate damage
  • How are we adopting sustainable practices?

    Cover of sustainability and health - top-tipsChaired by Nicky Jayesinghe, director of corporate development and social responsibility, the BMA has established a 'corporate sustainability and health group' which works across the BMA and BMJ.

    The working group brings together staff from all parts of the association, working in BMA House and the national offices, to improve our policies and practices. These range from how we procure goods and services, to ensuring our estates and facilities are as sustainable as possible.

    The group looks at practical ways of reducing our carbon foot print, and have issued internal guidance to all staff on their responsibilities in this regard (eg by switching off lights and electronic equipment, recycling office stationery etc).

    Read the 'top tips' to staff

     

    The BMA is a member of the Climate and Health Council, a network of health professionals seeking to inform and advocate on the health benefits of more sustainable living and the need to address climate change.

    BMA House was awarded the Gold grade by Green Tourism Business Scheme in 2017 (after being awarded the Silver grade in 2012), to demonstrate a business which is positively working towards being sustainable and accountable.

    We ensure that the companies with which we have contracts to provide services, such as catering and security, share the same core values and commitment to CSR.

  • Climate change

    Q&A on responding to the challenge of climate change

    George Roycroft, BMA staffBMA head of science and public health policy George Roycroft answers commonly asked questions by doctors.

     

    Why does climate change matter to doctors?

    Fundamentally, it is a health issue. Action to tackle climate change is about protecting and promoting health and wellbeing.

    We know that more frequent and severe extreme weather events – such as floods, droughts, extreme storms and heatwaves – can have adverse physical and mental health impacts.

    There is also an increased likelihood of the spread of vector-borne diseases to new locations; worsening nutrition resulting from decreased agricultural productivity and higher global food prices; rising sea levels and associated population displacement; and an exacerbation of poverty.

    Doctors therefore have a vested interest in supporting measures to prevent and mitigate climate change to help protect the health of their patients and wider populations.

     

    Is it really an issue in the UK?

    Yes, it is core business for the UK.

    Some of the worst effects of climate change may occur in other parts of the world, but the impact of flooding in the UK is a clear reminder that we are susceptible.

    Not only does this cause harm to those households directly affected by flooding, but it can put a strain on health services, such as the impact on A&E departments when severe weather hits. Higher sea levels with larger storm waves are also putting a strain on the UK’s coastal defences.

    If climate change continues unmanaged, the UK would be increasingly at risk of the spread of vector-borne diseases, population displacement and other impacts.

    It is also important to recognise that climate change is a global issue that needs a global response – the UK needs to play its part just as much as any other country in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing its sustainability profile.

     

    What role can doctors play?

    Action to prevent and mitigate climate change requires a comprehensive policy response at every level and in all sectors. So it is understandable when a doctor cannot immediately see what they can do to help. But there are some clear ways they can take action.

    As trusted members of society, doctors can be powerful and effective lobbyists in advocating for continued action international, nationally and regionally. By getting involved with professional associations and bodies or health-based networks, they can make clear health-based arguments for action.

    At a local level, they can work to ensure their NHS workplace is as sustainable as possible, and they can directly encourage patients to reduce the carbon footprint.

    The latter has a health co-benefit – for example, encouraging a patient to increase their physical activity by cycling or walking will improve their health outcomes and reduce their impact on climate change.

    Find more ideas for action

     

    What is the BMA doing on climate change?

    Through the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change we are working with other leading health organisations nationally to:

    • Lobby the UK Governments to ensure that national energy, health, transport, agriculture and local community policy unlocks health benefits
    • Develop communications tools and opportunities for individual UK health professionals to better inform themselves and advocate on behalf of their patients
    • Help strengthen the NHS's resilience to, and impact on climate change, and in doing so reduce the financial burden on health services.

    We took a lead role in developing the 2009 World Medical Association declaration on health and climate change and have repeatedly called for the United Nations to prioritise health in its negotiations for global action on climate change.

    In directly supporting our members, we have developed a guide on climate change which includes details of how doctors can get involved in taking action.

    We are always looking at ways to reduce the BMA's own carbon footprint. We have a ‘Sustainability and Health Group’ working across the BMA and BMJ to improve our policies and practices.

    This includes zero-to-landfill status with all waste either recycled or recovered; efficient procurement; low-energy motion-sensitive light fittings and 100% renewable energy power supply; and investment in video conferencing and webcam facilities, reducing the need for staff and members to travel.

  • Sustainability and health week

    18 - 22 April 2017

    We hold an annual sustainability and health week to highlight our work in promoting and adopting organisational policies that support sustainable practices and improve health. This year it ran from 18 – 22 April to coincide with Earth Day, which is on 22 April.

    Photo of green office week 2016 at the BMAEach day had a different theme with a range of activities organised to encourage staff engagement. These were: health and wellbeing, recycling, sustainable food and energy. Members of the sustainability and health group were on a stand each day to answer questions and take down ideas from staff.

     

  • Green Tourism Business Scheme Gold Award

    BMA House was awarded the Silver grade by Green Tourism Business Scheme - the largest and most established sustainable grading programme in the world - in 2012, in recognition of the association's positive work towards being sustainable and accountable.

    In 2017, we achieved the Gold grade, reflecting our efforts in adopting a range of initiatives designed to improve staff well-being, have a positive impact on the local community and wider society as well as reducing our overall carbon footprint.

  • Recycling

    Recycling iconWe recycle on average over 60% of the waste we generate. As of February 2016, BMA House has achieved a zero-to-landfill status. All of the waste produced at BMA House is either recycled or recovered, with none going to landfill.

    From May 2016, new recycling and waste facilities have been introduced in all BMA offices to replace personal desk bins and improve access to recycling waste for all office-based staff. Staff are now able to recycle paper, cardboard, cans, plastics and food waste.

    Throughout March 2017 our recycling processes were reviewed: we produced new recycling posters to help staff recycle better and through an audit ensured that the way we recycle is consistent throughout the building.

  • Reducing our carbon footprint

    BMA staff are encouraged to distribute papers electronically, if necessary print on both sides using recycled or sustainable paper, use re-manufactured ink and toner cartridges, switch off lights and close windows where required, combine orders into fewer deliveries, use environmentally friendly cleaning products and screen suppliers to select those that match our values.

    Our estates team has been working to ensure BMA House is reducing its carbon footprint by measures such as using low-energy motion-sensitive light fittings, 100% renewable energy power supply, and improving facilities for people wanting to cycle to work.

    The Technology Services team only replaces equipment when it stops working rather than because it has reached a certain age. It also changed its working practices to help reduce the BMA’s energy use. For example, files are now archived on a server that does not have to be backed up every night, which uses less energy.

    We have invested in video conferencing and webcam facilities, reducing the need for staff and members to travel. Where travel is necessary more domestic committee travel has been switched from air to rail. More than 95% of rail and up to 70% of air bookings are made using an online travel system. Since 2008, the BMA has been using an environmentally friendly taxi company, which uses Toyota Prius electric hybrid vehicles.