Gundersen Health freezing fossil-fuel investments
Gundersen Health System, La Crosse, Wis., will freeze all future investments in fossil fuels as part of an energy strategy that executives said will help “set the standard for environmental stewardship in healthcare.”
CEO Dr. Jeff Thompson, a pediatrician, said the system’s board and finance committee backed the decision, making Gundersen the first U.S. healthcare organization to publicly change fossil-fuel related securities in its portfolio.
Under the new plan, Gundersen will not invest any more funds in companies that extract fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil. However, it will not divest or reduce its current levels of investment.
Physicians, clinicians and public health advocates recently have urged hospitals and health systems to sell or freeze their fossil-fuel holdings. They’ve said the use of fossil fuels has been a major factor in the Earth’s shifting climate, and several studies have shown that climate change can be linked to adverse health outcomes, such as more cases of asthma and vector-borne diseases.
Gundersen has been at the forefront of energy efficiency and sustainability measures in the healthcare industry. By the end of 2014, the system expects to run entirely on self-produced, renewable energy. It has invested millions of dollars in several projects to reach that goal, such as a biomass boiler that uses organic wood products instead of natural gas. The boiler, which creates steam to heat and power the main campus, represents more than a third of Gundersen’s independent renewable energy.
A biomass boiler delivers more than a third of Gundersen’s renewable energy.