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Introducing the CICM Environmental Sustainability Special Interest Group
26 August, 2022
Introducing the CICM environmental sustainability Special Interest Group - August 2022
We are pleased to announce CICMs newest special interest group, the CICM Environmental Sustainability SIG. We welcome members to join this new community in the environmental sustainability landscape and contribute to the urgent and exciting work ahead with a committed intensive care sustainability team.
An environmentally sustainable health system is one that improves, maintains and restores health whilst minimising negative impacts on the environment and leveraging opportunities to restore and improve it to the benefit and well-being of current and future generations.
It is unequivocal that climate change, biodiversity extinctions, and other evidence of the Anthropocene affect human health. Further, healthcare itself substantially pollutes, contributing to these adversities. We have a duty of care to reduce the health effects of climate change, and to reduce healthcare’s contribution to climate change. We can also frame our response to these risks as our most significant opportunity for better health and health systems. The time to make the necessary changes is short. “The next few years are probably the most important in all of human history.” so says Co-Chair Debra Roberts of the IPCC.
Our intensive care community rose to the challenge of the COVID pandemic admirably, changing systems, saving lives, and working collaboratively, compassionately, innovatively and at pace. We can also do this with the planetary emergency; in fact, the very future of our specialty and a functioning health system that can support it depends on it. If we can successfully move to low/ zero carbon care in intensive care, we will need multifaceted environmental sustainability interventions on scale across all our workplaces and beyond. Facilitating an action framework for that change is essential. It is a huge challenge but also a huge opportunity. ANZICS recently published a sustainability toolkit, The Beginners guide to sustainability in the intensive care to help ICUs get going. This practical guide offers numerous actions to move sustainably at the bedside, intensive care department and beyond.
Sustainability and resource stewardship need to become a core part of our intensive care quality improvement work. This will mean social and environmental challenges in healthcare can be addressed as a core part of professional practice, using a recognised method for change. There is currently a sustainability action divide between what we know needs to happen and what is happening. How well are Australian and New Zealand ICUs doing already? A soon to be published ANZICS point prevalence study shows use of common ICU consumables to be high, but with low associated actual recycling rates. Interventions to reduce use and improve recycling urgently are required to manage environmental sustainability in Intensive Care Units. We have a lot to do, but it is achievable.
So how big a deal is health care pollution relatively? In the US, lives lost to preventable medical errors currently equate to the morbidity and mortality from US health sector GHG emissions. Should health care pollution prevention then be the new patient safety movement?
We think so.
CICM is committed to contributing towards the planetary framework for healthcare
and putting an environmental sustainability overlay onto its many facets of work. CICM published The College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand Statement on Sustainability in 2019.
CICM has adopted an ESG portfolio and recently collaborated on a multi-college report, Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems, which makes various recommendations to policy makers.
The Environmental Sustainability Special Interest Group will be able to contribute to future curriculum developments.
Establishing a new SIG- the Environmental Sustainability SIG is the next step. The SIG activities will include:
Providing support and guidance for CICM advocacy initiatives and external requests for CICM’s endorsement, e.g., CICM statements, joint initiatives with other organisations, Choosing Wisely.
Representing CICM when invited to sit on external working groups and committees.
Developing and delivering education to CICM members on sustainability, climate change and health.
Promoting research on sustainability, climate change and health.
Providing advice and guidance on promoting sustainability and climate change resources to CICM members.
The NHS was the first national health service to commit to net zero by 2040 and has recently published its ambitious Pathway to Net Zero.
Whilst actions like national electricity and supply chain decarbonisation, and vehicle efficiency are outside clinical remit there are a large proportion of healthcare actions that will need clinicians to be directly involved. Lower down the Pathway, there are several unknown actions, and these will also need clinical innovation and creativity.
Zero-carbon care in one of the most resource-intensive areas in the hospital may seem an oxymoron. However, there is so much we can do, and we can do it even better together with collaboration, coordination, further research, and quality improvement on scale across our innovative and creative intensive care community.
How to join
Please join our newest CICM SIG and let’s get going. Our new CICM Environmental sustainability Special Interest Group can be viewed here:
CICM Environmental Sustainability
If you would like to join the CICM Environmental Sustainability Special Interest Group, please contact
Special Interest Group
Vozzola E, Overcash M, Griffing E. An Environmental Analysis of Reusable and Disposable Surgical Gowns. Aorn j 2020;111(3):315-325. (In eng). DOI: 10.1002/aorn.12885.
WorkingGroupIII. Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. 6th assessment report IPCC. IPCC: 2022. (
Trent L PH, McGain F, Anstey M, Mitchell T, Wilson D. A beginners guide to sustainability in the ICU. ANZICS, 23rd February 2022. (ISBN: 978-1-876980-56-6, ABN: 19 657 679 556) (
Eckelman MJ, Sherman JD. Estimated Global Disease Burden From US Health Care Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Am J Public Health 2018;108(S2):S120-s122. (In eng). DOI: 10.2105/ajph.2017.303846
Sherman JD, McGain F, Lem M, Mortimer F, Jonas WB, MacNeill AJ. Net zero healthcare: a call for clinician action. Bmj 2021;374:n1323. (In eng). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.n1323.
CICM. College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand Statement on Sustainability. CICM, 21 Nov 2019 2019. (IC-30) (
Bragge P AF, Bowen K, Burgess M, Cooke S, Lennox A, Liew D, Pattuwage L, Watts C, Capon T. Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice. Melbourne: Monash Sustainable Development Evidence Review Service, BehaviourWorks Australia, Monash University, October 2021. (
NHS. Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service. 2022. (