Gun­der­sen Health freez­ing fos­sil-fuel in­vest­ments

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —Bob Her­man

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.

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