According to the centers for disease control and prevention, as of 2016, there were more than 15,600 nursing homes in the United States. These primarily are long-term or senior-care facilities. Of these, nearly 70 percent are “for-profit” nursing homes.

This means, they are businesses, and like any business, they must be continually on the lookout for ways to keep operating costs in check. Further, they must be continually marketing their facilities so that more people are interested in using them and investing in them, helping to keep them profitable.

Care facility administrators may be unaware that one way many types of facilities are accomplishing both of these objectives is by becoming more sustainably-focused. In fact, the key driving force for sustainability today is the cost savings that result from sustainability.  So, let’s take a closer look at how and why this is happening and in what way it can serve care facility administrators in particular.

However, before we begin, we must define what we mean by “sustainability.” Initially, it referred to using resources in such a way that they would still be available for future generations. Today, it refers to three pillars: planet, profit, and people. Commonly known as the “triple bottom line,” a sustainably focused business takes significant steps to protect the environment; make profits legally and fairly; and pays their staff fairly, providing appropriate benefits, as well as helps their local communities.

For our purposes here, however, sustainability means looking for ways to reduce consumption and waste, and with this in check, and using these accomplishments as ways to market a nursing home facility.

Sustainability and Cost Savings

To cut operating costs, the consumption of fuel, energy, water, and other metrics as well as the amount of waste generated by a facility, must be reduced. This requires that facility managers know how much they are consuming now, something many are not aware of, and then using this as a benchmark, looking for ways to reduce these metrics going forward.

To accomplish this, what many facilities turn to are relatively new technologies referred to as sustainability dashboards. These come in different formats – software or cloud-based, for instance – and are used to measure and monitor consumption. More advanced systems will have a “back end” staff also monitoring the data. This is important because it is typically these behind the scenes people who suggest ways a facility can reduce consumption and with it, operating costs.  They also are able to detect aberrations that must be brought to the organization’s attention.

A perfect example of how this could benefit an organization recently occurred in a business located in Pennsylvania. With several years of data in hand, the “dashboard” detected that each August, like clockwork, this business received a $200 monthly rate increase for trash removal Further, the system reported that they were paying more for trash removal than comparable companies in similarly sized facilities.

An investigation began resulting in the trash removal company reversing the $200 annual charges.  Further, working with the dashboard client, the trash removal company suggested measures the business could take such as reducing pickups, using larger trash containers, and taking additional steps to lower costs. Ultimately, the business was able to reduce its trash removal costs by $17,000 in one year.

While this substantial cost reduction is unusual, it is an example of what can happen.  Sustainability, in other words, pays off in dollars and cents.

Sustainability and Marketing

A three-year-old study on how businesses can help build and market their brands reflects a trend that continues to grow in the U.S. The Natural Marketing Group, a consulting group that focuses on sustainability and wellness issues, surveyed more than 53,000 U.S. consumers. They discovered that nearly 60 percent of them would “consider a company’s impact on the environment in considering to purchase goods and services and are more likely to purchase from companies that practice sustainable habits.” 1

Further, marketing does not mean just attracting patients to a facility, it also means attracting qualified staff, especially younger workers.  In 2017, a CNN survey found that two-thirds of those between the ages of 16-19 would not consider working for the oil and gas industry, indicating organizations like this cause problems rather than solve problems. 2

But even more telling is a 2016 Cones Communications study regarding millennials and employment, They uncovered the following:

 

  • 64% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments before deciding to work for an organization.
  • 64% will not work for an organization that does not have strong corporate and social responsibility values (CSRs).
  • About 70% of all U.S. workers say they would be more loyal to a company if it were socially and environmentally focused; this number jumps to 83% for millennials. 3

Its possible many nursing home administrators are unaware of these facts and the growing importance and benefits of sustainability.  What we now realize is that doing good pays dividends, many of which can benefit long-term/senior care facilities.

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Green cleaning and sustainability, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools LLC, for measuring and monitoring sustainability with the goal of protecting natural resources and reducing facility operating costs.  He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning,” is on the Board of the Green Sports Alliance, and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF).  He can be reached at steveashkin@ashkingroup.com

 

1 “Six Benefits of Becoming a Sustainable Business,” by Michael Rogers, published in Environmental Leader, March 26, 2106.

  1. “Young People Don’t Want to Work for Oil Companies;” by Matt Egan, CNN Business, June 21, 2017
  2. “Employee Engagement…The Millennial Way” Online: http://millennialemployeeengagement.com/

 

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