Our Sustainability Committment

South East London Integrated Care System’s Commitment to COP26

Many of the world’s leaders recently convened in Glasgow for the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to discuss the environment. COP26 aims to accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society. These discussions are considered a critical cross roads as to whether global warming can be limited, and the natural world be supported to recover.

Why does contributing to this need to be a priority of the NHS? Well, the NHS contributes to 4% of the England’s total carbon footprint and has committed to Net Zero from the emissions we control directly by 2040 but importantly the health of our citizens is linked intrinsically to the state of the environment and, therefore, climate change is also a health emergency.

The South East London Integrated Care System (ICS) brings together local health and care organisations and local councils to design care and improve population health, through shared leadership and collective action. We must play our part, together, in reducing greenhouse gases and are committed to taking clear and definitive actions to become more sustainable in the way we operate.

To mark COP26, the ICS reflects here on steps being taken by our NHS trust partners to date in developing their green plans, which need to be in place by January 2022. This work is on top of the sustainability plans being taken forward by our local authority colleagues. 

We are proud of these steps but recognise there is a clear and urgent need to accelerate decarbonisation efforts and improve resource use and the sustainability of our system – for the nearly two million people who live in south east London and the generations to come.


Examples of actions taken to date by our NHS partners

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has made significant progress over the past 12 months, including the development and launch of its Green Plan, establishing a Sustainability Steering Group, and expanding the Green Champions network to over 250 staff. Areas of notable progress include:

  • sustainable (no-meat) food options
  • green inhalers and anaesthetic practices
  • waste management – recycling and reuse schemes
  • active and low carbon travel initiatives e.g. cycle storage
  • £3.2 million grant funding to deliver a £1m LED lighting project and a low carbon heating system to the Golden Jubilee PFI, saving around 400 tonnes of carbon emissions annually


Guys and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust have worked hard to develop plans for achieving carbon zero targets, including:

  • Carrying out a full Trust vehicle fleet review to assess viability of full fleet electrification
  • Development of a Trust EV charging infrastructure strategy
  • Implementation of a river boat pilot scheme for deliveries of supplies along the Thames from the Trusts supplies hub in Dartford
  • Supporting staff to use bicycles, both in the community for patient visits and through Dr Bike sessions for staff
  • Piloting food alternatives
  • Adding biodiversity benefit and colour to sites with use of green screens and ivy pollution barriers
  • Encouraging reduction of single use and expansion of a circular economy approach

At NHS South East London CCG, the current Green Plan recognises the sustainability benefits that can be achieved through encouraging positive behaviours, be that through encouraging paperless working practices, supporting people to engage in healthy travel options, or promoting staff health and wellbeing. The CCG is committed to working with system partners to operate in a way that reduces its carbon footprint and maximises the use of technology to deliver our services in an environmentally friendly way, and will continue to develop sustainable ways of working itself and in support of its partners.

Through a review of opportunities to manage their estate in a more sustainable way, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust has introduced LED lighting and is seeking to reduce carbon consumption. A similar review has taken place at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, who are also introducing initiatives to encourage more sustainable staff travel options, create a sustainable champions group, and reduce single use activity. In addition, at one site, a local beekeeper has installed six beehives and sells the honey locally in the community.

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust has engaged with staff to focus on waste reduction and energy efficiency, expanding the waste recycling facilities available and encouraging a culture of sustainable activity.


Our immediate further commitments

As NHS organisations, in addition to our net zero target of 2040, we must make rapid progress and reach an 80% reduction by 2028 to 2032. These ambitions, coupled with accelerated council-led targets and climate emergency declarations, respond to the growing understanding and evidence of the role of greenhouse gases in driving global climate change.

We will focus and work collectively to deliver net zero in support of our populations and the ambitions of the Greener NHS and NHS Long Term Plan by reducing carbon, energy and waste, the use of single-use plastics and improving air quality. Our immediate commitments are:

  • All trusts to have a Green Plan by January 2022
  • ICS Green Plan to be developed and approved by April 2022
  • Identify the finance and resources required to deliver our goals


Leading the change

Covid-19 has shone a light on the health inequalities that exist across south east London. Now is the time to support a green recovery and place sustainability at the heart of policies, solutions and recovery programmes. As anchor institutions within our communities, we have a duty and a will to contribute to local areas beyond service delivery. Our upcoming ICS Green Plan will detail what is required to deliver upon our commitments and protect public health, but one thing is for certain – it is going to involve each and every member of our organisations playing their part, and the support of the community. We give our commitment to lead this huge effort and would ask everyone connected to our organisations to bring all the energy and commitment they can to bear.

We will continue to share information on our commitments and actions as we strive to making a difference to this climate emergency.

Want to do your bit but not sure how?

Check out these pages for some suggestions:

Climate change: Four things you can do about your carbon footprint - BBC News

10 Actions for Londoners to Help the Planet - Hubbub Foundation

Use this online tool to calculate and reduce your carbon footprint - ClimateHero