Digital Exclusives

Working Towards a Sustainable Future

September 23, 2022

A conversation with Zoë Beck, HCA Healthcare's Director of Sustainability.

Zoë Beck
Director of Sustainability

In recent years, climate change, sourcing pressure and global consumption have become some of the greatest health opportunities of the 21st century, only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. HCA Healthcare’s leaders are centering their attention on greater sustainability efforts, and are committed to the ongoing work in support of our environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives.

A new report about these accelerated sustainability practices will soon be released to HCA Healthcare stakeholders and will serve to communicate our findings, strategies and goals in the ESG space.

While data is still being collected, Zoë Beck, director of sustainability at HCA Healthcare, sits down to discuss why this work is so important and what it means to colleagues, patients and community partners.

The care and improvement of human life is directly connected to the impact humans have on the environment, as well as our understanding of how the environment impacts overall health and well-being.

— Zoë Beck, Director of Sustainability

Q: What does sustainability mean in a healthcare setting?

A: The care and improvement of human life is directly connected to the impact humans have on the environment, as well as our understanding of how the environment impacts overall health and well-being.

Sustainability means making communities healthier and protecting the environment by implementing sustainable hospital practices, promoting conservation, decreasing waste and exercising environmentally conscious purchasing.

Q: What’s a big misnomer about sustainability in healthcare?

A: One misnomer is that focusing any attention on sustainability takes away from patient care. It is a common misunderstanding that addressing sustainability in healthcare will cost more and detract from patient care. It is quite the opposite: by taking care of issues related to sustainability – energy, water, environment of care, etc. – patients are better cared for and we can decrease the variables outside of health systems that are making patients sicker.

Q: Can you describe that connection between a sustainability plan and a patient in the hospital?

A: Any efforts to address and reduce greenhouse gas emissions are helping patients by creating more livable environments outside of the hospital. Within the hospital, maintenance and upgrades to the building systems have benefits that are twofold: they reduce greenhouse gas emissions and they help to keep patient rooms comfortable and operating rooms at optimal temperatures for procedures.

Q: What are the main areas of focus when it comes to sustainability goals at HCA Healthcare?

A: The four key themes of our environmental strategy are managing energy and water responsibly, enhancing our resiliency to climate risks, sourcing and consuming efficiently and responsibly, and greening our capital programs.

Q: What are some challenges in the sustainability space?

A: One of the biggest challenges is data. In order to set goals and measure progress, you first have to measure a baseline. Aggregation of the data necessary to report out on ESG metrics takes time and resources to measure. Those are investments we know we will need to make.

Q: What are some successes that HCA Healthcare has already had, and how will you continue to build on them?

A: As far as environmental successes, HCA Healthcare has measured Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions* so that, in the future, we will be able to set goals to reduce those numbers.

Q: What else should colleagues know about HCA Healthcare’s goals and initiatives?

A: From an environmental perspective, HCA Healthcare is implementing a plan to reduce Scope 1 (direct emissions) and Scope 2 (indirect) emissions* over the next 3 to 5 years, and a strategy to improve environmental performance more broadly. Goals include reducing unnecessary resource consumption, conserving energy, electrifying and investing in more energy-efficient equipment, optimizing equipment maintenance, and investing in on-site solar and procuring renewable electricity. We are also preparing to share greenhouse gas emission reduction targets publicly in due course.

Colleagues can read more in the HCA Healthcare Impact Report.


*Scope 1 emissions are those that are released during industrial processes and on-site manufacturing. These are direct emissions form a company’s owned or controlled sources.

 Scope 2 emissions include indirect greenhouse gas emissions from purchased or acquired energy, such as electricity, steam, heat or cooling.