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Sustainable social care… why and how?

by Lisa Carr

Whether we like it or not, the government has set a UK commitment to sustainability that has to be met by 2050, change has to start now or we will fail to meet our targets. We are all going to experience at first voluntary but ultimately compulsory change as practices that need to be put in place now to hit the 2050 commitment. Change is coming.

We need to be considering the impact of care delivery on the environment, society, and the economy.


  1. Who do you bank with and which pension provider you use for your team’s pensions? Switching providers to greener banks/funds (both as individuals and as organisations) will mean that your money isn’t being used to fund fossil fuels.
  2. If you have or are considering solar panels, speak to your accountants, depending on different variables, it’s possible they can be included on your balance sheet as appreciating assets (ie assets which increase in value over time) rather than depreciating assets.
  3. You can reduce your environmental impact by adopting sustainable purchasing practices such as energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy sources, and waste reduction and recycling programs. An example of this is what not-for-profit Grace Care’s are striving to achieve by thoroughly decontaminating and executing high levels of quality and risk checks to give care equipment a new lease of life and avoid needless landfill. Are all the suppliers you buy from hitting sustainability targets or carbon neutral or literate? Ask them all for a copy of their sustainability plans and credentials.

Lifestyle and residents

  1. Meat-free Mondays where you include a vegetarian (or vegan) dish from a different country or culture each week. 
  2. Look for sustainable innovations for activities. E.g. if someone likes bird watching, you can buy a smart bird feeder which takes photos that can then be viewed on technology, and mean your residents can still enjoy bird watching from the comfort of inside/from their bed.
  3. Investing in preventative care can help you to reduce the demand for more costly and intensive care interventions, helping to reduce the overall environmental, social, and economic impact of social care.
  4. Service users can play a key role in promoting sustainable social care delivery by providing feedback and suggestions for improvements, as well as adopting sustainable behaviours.


  1. Supporting a skilled workforce: Providing adequate training and support can help to attract and retain skilled staff, improving the quality of care while also benefiting the wider economy.
  2. Offer incentives for care workers who adopt or put forward more sustainable processes such as walking or cycling to work, or suggest a positive change to delivery, procuring or approach.

Choose the people in your teams who are most passionate about sustainability and support them to lead a culture change.

Data and technology

  1. What are the key KPIs that matter the most to you and your residents, teams and families? Pick 3-5 and focus on them. Publicise the chosen KPIs and provide regular (monthly/quarterly/annual) updates to all stakeholders so you hold yourself/your organisation publicly accountable. 
  2. Figure out a way to measure the areas which are most important to you / will have the biggest impact. Whether it’s number of trees planted, number of wheelchairs saved from landfill, kilograms of food waste recycled instead of going to landfill etc, think about what you can consistently measure and keep track of. 
  3. Delete your old or unnecessary emails. Unsubscribe from subscriptions you never read or open. Delete old emails that aren’t needed. Digitisation is great, but the more you digitise, the more energy is needed for all those data records.

Change management

  1. Same as with any other new project or strategy you’re trying to implement, whether it’s improving digitisation, a new dementia strategy or improving oral hygiene, have sustainability champions. Choose the people in your teams who are most passionate about sustainability and support them to lead a culture change.
  2. Make your most important sustainability KPIs and goals visible to your teams, eg add them to existing online dashboards, discuss them in daily meetings, post them on staff notice boards etc. 
  3. Make it fun! Create competitions, get everyone involved, and have rewards for when they meet certain milestones or goals.
  4. You can collaborate with other sectors such as health, housing, and transport to develop integrated approaches that address wider social and environmental issues.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Researchers from McKinsey & Company found that companies which pursued sustainability with the genuine aim of creating additional value for society (not just attempts at greenwashing) generated higher profits for their organisation in both the medium term (3-5 years) and in the long term (5-10 years) than those which did not.

By adopting sustainable practices, supporting a skilled workforce, prioritising preventative care, engaging service users, and collaborating with other sectors, social care providers can work towards a more sustainable, cost effective, higher revenue generating and resilient future.

Be the change you want to see


Article contributors: 

  • Amrit Dhaliwal – Walfinch Home Care
  • Lucy Buxton – LJB Coach Consultancy
  • Jade Maloney – Institute of Health and Social Care Management
  • Jasmeet Rai  – RCH Care Homes
  • Hannah Montgomery – Grace Cares

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