GS1 recently released the GS1 Healthcare Sustainability Strategy 2023-2027, which sets out key sustainability objectives for achievement to help reduce the climate footprint of the healthcare sector and the healthcare supply chain. The strategy follows the same framework as the GS1 Healthcare Strategy 2023-2027, and focuses on the same seven areas: standards deployment, interoperable implementation, international stakeholders, solution providers, single barcode, primary packaging identification, and emerging technologies. These are then sorted by three key themes: GS1 standards as the foundation, GS1 Healthcare community, and addressing new needs.
The seven areas of focus support the work done by GS1 Healthcare towards the overarching goal: “GS1 standards are considered, implemented, and, if needed, further developed for a more sustainable supply chain in the healthcare sector”. According to the sustainability strategy, it is of great importance that the value proposition of GS1 standards for a more sustainable healthcare supply chain is understood, prior to working towards and achieving the objectives of the strategy.
The ongoing climate crisis is being largely impacted by the healthcare sector, and the sector should therefore play a part in helping to resolve the harm and effects caused by its irresponsibility. GS1 has identified an opportunity for improvements to be made to current sustainability efforts within the healthcare supply chain.
One of the actions to be taken, as mentioned in the GS1 Healthcare Sustainability Strategy, is the move to a circular supply chain from a traditional linear supply chain. A circular supply chain, based on the ability to reuse, repair, and recycle materials in order to keep them in use for the longest time possible, will be a significant shift, requiring generous effort to align structures and create room for sustainable activities. In the healthcare sector, this is of particular importance, as a number of healthcare supplies can have a harmful impact on the environment if managed ineffectively. A sustainable healthcare supply chain will rely heavily on the effective tracking and management of healthcare inventories, which can be aided by the use of effective inventory management systems and GS1 standards.
Within the strategy, GS1 has said, “According to Health Care Without Harm & Arup (2019), 71% of healthcare’s climate footprint is derived from the healthcare supply chain (scope 3). Scope 3 emissions are caused by, for example, production, packaging, transport, waste generation, and end-of-life treatment of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Because of the significant contribution of the supply chain, many organisations are looking into ways to understand this global landscape better to be able to transform and decarbonise the supply chain.”
The full GS1 Healthcare Sustainability Strategy can be found here, and provides thorough detail on each objective set, the impacts of the current healthcare supply chain, and the benefits offered by the adoption of GS1 standards.