Older man carrying young child on his back
We are committed to meeting the ambitious Net Zero Carbon NHS targets and supporting our NHS customers to do the same

The challenge

In October 2020, the NHS committed to deliver the world’s first Net Zero Carbon health service, responding to climate change and improving health now and for future generations.

Within this Green Plan, we have established a set of principles and targeted interventions aimed at ensuring that the high quality of commissioning support we are providing today is available tomorrow. As such, we are working with three key aims in mind:

1. Minimising our impact and having a positive effect on the environment
2. Supporting staff wellbeing to enable a happy, healthy and productive workforce
3. Working towards long-term financial sustainability

In our 2021-23 Business Plan, SCW has committed to ‘maximise our contribution to a net-zero NHS’. Our primary environmental target is to match the targets set out in the Delivering a Net Zero National Health Service strategy: reaching Net Zero Carbon for our direct emissions (NHS Carbon Footprint) by 2040 and our indirect emissions (NHS Carbon Footprint Plus) by 2045.

This Green Plan outlines the challenge and sets out our commitments.

Download the Green Plan 2022 as a PDF

Cover image of the SCW Green Plan pdf

Climate emergency = health emergency


Amanda Pritchard, NHS England CEO describes the climate emergency as a 'health emergency' and reiterates the important role the NHS has to play in leading change.

The links between climate and health are clear. According to The Lancet, climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century – but tackling it presents the greatest opportunity to improve health that we will see in our lifetimes.

Health and sustainability go hand in hand. By delivering care in a more sustainable way, and supporting our staff, patients, carers and communities to live more sustainable lifestyles, we are enabling better health outcomes in our community.

NHS-wide drivers for change

  • A Sustainable Development Strategy for the NHS, Public Health and Social Care Systems (2014) - reinforces the need for all NHS organisations to take action to reduce their environmental impact and embed sustainability into their strategies, cultures and communities.
  • The NHS Long Term Plan - sets out a number of requirements for NHS Trusts focussing on carbon, air pollution and plastic reduction. Key to this is a commitment to the Climate Change Act 2008 to more than halve emissions by 2025 and committing to net-zero emissions by 2050, or as soon as practicably possible.
  • Social Value and Sustainability in Procurement and Commissioning - From April 2022 the requirement to include a 10% weighting dedicated to social value and sustainability within all above-threshold tenders is being extended to cover all NHS organisations. A Green Plan may be asked for by commissioners as evidence of this.
  • Developing a Net Zero Carbon National Health Service (2020) – if health services around the world were a country, they would be the fifth-largest emitter of CO2. The NHS, therefore, has the potential to make a significant contribution to tackling climate change in the UK. Launched in Autumn 2020, the new NHSEI climate change strategy sets out clear targets for NHS organisations to become Net Zero Carbon and identifies specific areas of work to achieve this.
  • The NHS Standard Contract and planning guidance – the full version of the NHS Standard Contract mandates a range of targets relating to sustainability, including that all providers have a Board approved Green Plan. Planning guidance also includes a target for carbon reduction relating to outpatient appointments.
  • Carbon Reduction Plans – all suppliers, including CSUs, are required to have a Carbon Reduction Plan in line with the Greening Government Commitments (2021) for major contracts within government. This will also apply to contracting within NHS from 2024.
  • There is a strong financial business case for taking action to become more sustainable – by reducing consumption of resources such as energy, water, fuel and other materials, recycling more NHS organisations can realise significant savings. These can then be reinvested into frontline care, redeveloping our estate and improving working conditions. Moreover, strong credentials in sustainability will also support the attraction and retention of staff.

Our carbon footprint

SCW consumes a significant amount of energy and water and produces a large volume of waste across the multiple buildings we occupy. Our staff travel across a substantial area to deliver services to and for the NHS, and we purchase a wide range of equipment and services. All of these activities generate CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions and can be collectively summarised as our carbon footprint.

The carbon footprint (measured in tonnes of CO2e) associated with our services is illustrated below. These include the emissions we control directly and are collectively referred to as the ‘NHS Carbon Footprint’ within the Greener NHS guidance.

Our indirect emissions referred to as the ‘NHS Carbon Footprint Plus’ have not been reported due to the limited data available for this area. In future, and with the support of further guidance, we will begin to collate and report on emissions from our supply chain.

Our base year is 2017/18 due to the availability of robust data for the organisation from this date onwards. Our absolute carbon footprint has reduced since 2017/18 with an overall reduction of almost 77%.

This reduction is primarily due to the pandemic, which has seen our demand for heating, electricity and travel at our sites fall significantly as a result of more of our staff working from home. It is important to note that we have not attempted to estimate the impact of homeworking in these figures. We are awaiting further central guidance on the best approach to quantify this and hope to be able to measure this in future.
Emissions Source
2017 - 2018
2020 - 2021
Fossil Fuels (tCO2e)
Electricity emissions including T&D losses (tCO2e)

Travel emissions (tCO2e)
Water and Wastewater (tCO2e)
Water (tCO2e)


Energy and water impacts

Utility consumption represents the largest contribution to our direct carbon footprint. The use of gas and electricity to heat and power the buildings we occupy is significant. The decarbonisation of the national grid means that the electricity we consume has a much lower carbon footprint now than it did just four years ago. However, we will need to find ways to further reduce our electricity consumption and encourage our landlords to switch to low carbon heating systems, in order for us to meet our emission reduction targets in future.

Travel impacts

Travel is another large component of our footprint. In 2020/21 our staff travelled almost 200,000 miles carrying out SCW’s business. The vast majority of this mileage was undertaken by staff driving their own private vehicles with a very small percentage taken via train.

This constitutes an overall 80% reduction in the overall business mileage when compared to our baseline year of 2017-18.
Air (inc. domestic)

Waste impacts

As our properties are leased we have limited access to waste data relating to our organisation. However, we are committed to reducing the amount of waste we generate and finding more sustainable disposal options.

Our progress so far

  • We encourage the most sustainable travel wherever possible with tools for staff including Bike2Work scheme to ensure our teams can take advantage of tax savings when buying a bicycle.
  • Strong culture of agile working through web conferencing, teleconferencing and phone calls wherever possible, using public transport or car-sharing where possible and monitoring and managing staff travel against mileage limits. This significantly reduces the need for and volume of travel between our sites.
  • Leading digital transformation projects to facilitate the move to virtual consultations, development of apps for patient care and other areas, improving patient care at the same time as supporting a reduction in travel and associated carbon.
  • IT equipment recycling and reuse schemes are in place, for example, laptops are donated to charities to extend their lifespan.
  • Energy-saving features including motion sensor lighting fitted in many offices.
  • Cutting plastic across the organisation by removing plastic cups from water dispensers.
  • Recycling facilities are available on most sites.
  • Actively contributing to a paperless NHS through our CHIS model, use of MDFs etc, with a significant reduction seen during 2020/21 associated with the pandemic.

Our values and Green Plan alignment

Patient First – climate change poses a major threat to the health of the communities we serve, by reducing our emissions we can reduce admissions and save lives.

Aspirational – as an organisation that aspires to deliver excellence and celebrate innovation, we want SCW to be a leader by example and ensure we are maximising our contribution to a net-zero NHS.

Collaborative – in order to achieve net-zero we will need to work together to build our impact both within SCW and also externally, by forming effective partnerships and working collaboratively with the systems we support.

Insightful – climate change is a complex problem. By challenging convention and revealing opportunities we can play a key role in supporting our customers to deliver more sustainable healthcare and achieve the best possible outcomes for people, communities and populations, as well as the planet.

Respectful – we understand that everyone is at different points in the journey towards sustainability. In line with our ambitions to 'Build a Culture of Belonging', we will develop an approach to sustainability and behaviour change that is respectful and inclusive of all our staff, partners and the communities we serve.

Where next: achieving Net Zero Carbon

We are committed to meeting the Net Zero Carbon targets set out by NHSEI. This means reaching Net Zero Carbon for our direct emissions (NHS Carbon Footprint) by 2040 and our indirect emissions (NHS Carbon Footprint Plus) by 2045 at the latest. Our first interim target is a reduction in our carbon footprint of 57% by 2025 from a 2017/18 baseline.

In order to deliver Net Zero, we will focus our work on four areas:
  1. Minimising resource use: reducing as far as possible the resources required in the first place. This might include embracing agile working and route planning for staff to reduce the need for travel or working with our landlords to help reduce the amount of electricity and gas we consume within the buildings we occupy.

  2. Reusing wherever possible: moving away from single-use items to items that can be reused or reprocessed and reusing and redistributing furniture and other items instead of purchasing new.

  3. Switching to greener alternatives: where resources use is essential, we must reduce carbon intensity as far as possible. This might include encouraging the use of more sustainable forms of travel, such as cycling and walking, to reduce private vehicle use, or working with landlords to support our buildings to be powered by more sustainable energy sources and reviewing leases where they do not meet Net Zero requirements.

  4. Offsetting: in due course and in line with any government or NHSEI guidance, we will consider the potential for offsetting any emissions that we cannot reduce in other ways, and with a focus on investing in projects that directly benefit patient communities as well as the environment.

Read more about the action we will be taking

Download the SCW Green Plan 2022 PDF

Contact SCW's Greener NHS group