Environmental sustainability

There are clear linkages between the health and wellbeing of Victorians and a healthy environment. While public hospitals and health services contribute a fifth of the Victorian Government’s energy related carbon emissions, we are making significant progress in reducing environmental impacts.

Since 2005 public hospitals and health services:

  • have reduced water used by approximately 570 million litres
  • are using 18 per cent less energy per square metre of hospital floor space
  • are emitting, on average, 9 per cent less carbon per square metre of hospital floor space.

As the demand for health services continues to grow, we aim to proactively embed environmental sustainability into public hospitals and health services operate. This will help us to play our part in achieving Victoria’s 2050 net carbon zero target.

Our Environmental sustainability strategy 2018-19 to 2022-23 defines our five-year commitment to:

  • provide leadership and engage with the health sector
  • improve the environmental performance of the health system
  • adapt to a changing climate.

Our action plans and progress reports detail how we will deliver the strategy and our achievements to date.

At the halfway point of the strategy, we’ve released our Sustainability performance report. The report also includes, for the first time, data on Victoria’s National Australian Built Environment Rating Scheme (NABERS) hospital ratings. The report compares the health system’s environmental performance over 2018-19 and 2019-20 to the most up to date 2017-18 data.

Further information on our sustainability programs is available on the health.vic website.

Victorian public hospitals and health services are required to develop and maintain a whole-of-organisation environmental management plan and to publicly report on their environmental performance. We support hospitals and health services by:

We are also working with other jurisdictions to build sustainability into health system performance management. The National Australian Built Environment Rating Scheme (NABERS) rating tools for energy and water have been developed for public hospitals and we are working collaboratively to develop a NABERS tool for hospital waste as well.

Hospitals and health services use significant amounts of energy and water. They also generate large volumes of waste. Hospitals are the most energy intensive public building and the second most energy intensive building type in Australia.

That’s why we are running several programs to improve the environmental performance of the health system, including:

We also collect environmental data from our hospitals and health services to track and report on performance outcomes, published in the Department of Health annual report.

Climate change is a global economic, social, environmental and public health issue. It poses significant consequences for our health and wellbeing. Victoria is not immune to consequences such as:

  • the increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events
  • the potential spread of disease
  • effects on mental health
  • threats to food and water supply

The impacts of climate change on the management of health and human services and government assets, such as hospitals and health services, affect our community. Vulnerable and disadvantaged groups including aged persons, people with chronic conditions and low-income households are often affected most.

Climate change also poses numerous risks to infrastructure. If these risks are not considered when locating, designing, building and maintaining assets, is likely that the life of each asset will be reduced. It is also likely that costs of running the infrastructure will increase over its life-cycle.

Risks to health infrastructure from climate change include:

  • inundation due to sea level rise
  • riverine and inland flooding
  • soil contraction shifting foundations
  • extreme windstorms
  • bushfire and smoke damage
  • hot days and heatwaves
  • legionella growth
  • amplification of other pathogens and microbes.

Each of these pose risks to people’s comfort, health and lives.

The Department of Health Pilot health and human services climate change adaptation action plan 2019-21 details how we will assist the sector to embed climate change considerations into policies, planning, guidelines and operations, and how we plan to respond to the risks posed to public health and wellbeing.

As part of the Victorian’s Government’s commitment to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all new State Government projects that have not yet reached the design stage must be all-electric.

Read more about the new policy.


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Sustainability Unit
Victorian Health Building Authority
Last updated: 15 February 2024