At COP28, health came into the spotlight with a dedicated day and discussions on the nexus of climate and health. It was the first time a Health Day had been held during a COP, and delegates heard of the devastating and wide-reaching impacts the intensifying climate crisis is having on health.
A number of pledges were made, and notably, the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health was signed by over 120 countries.
But, beyond financing, policy and adaptation efforts, the health industry itself – responsible for between 4 to 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – must also change to make healthcare more sustainable, accessible and equitable.
ESG Mena recently heard from Vincenzo Ventricelli, CEO, Philips Middle East, Türkiye and Africa (META) about healthcare’s climate responsibility, and how the company is working to drive change in the industry.
Something repeated throughout COP28 was that the climate crisis is a health crisis – tell me about the interconnection of these two issues, why it’s important they’re addressed holistically and Philips’ approach here.
As a leading health technology company, we are committed to improving people’s health and healthcare outcomes, as well as making care more accessible, inclusive, connected, and sustainable. Our global recognition for ESG/Sustainability underscores our commitment, safeguarding our license to operate responsibly.
It is heartening to see that there is a strong alignment between the healthcare industry and customer expectations around sustainability. According to Philips Health Trends Research in the UAE, 82% of UAE residents believe sustainability should be a priority for healthcare companies. They emphasised the importance of prioritising practices that do not harm the environment, with 51% of respondents indicating this as a key priority. This highlights the importance of sustainable business practices and the need for healthcare leaders to achieve sustainable healthcare.
Incorporating sustainable materials and technologies into our product design, showcases how innovation in healthcare contributes to advancing industry decarbonisation. We aim to continue driving innovation and adopting sustainable practices to create a more sustainable healthcare sector.
At Philips, our purpose is to improve the lives of 2.5 billion people by 2030, with a focus on reaching 400 million in underserved communities. Our purpose-driven CSR strategy in 2022 positively impacted 1.81 billion lives, including 202 million in underserved areas by digitally transforming healthcare, we connect people, data, and technology, aiming not only for technological innovation but also emphasising responsible leadership, collaborative models, and financing solutions.
We are encouraged by the growing momentum across the healthcare industry and among our customers to reduce our collective environmental footprint. It is a seminal step in the journey towards a healthier, more sustainable planet and we are looking forward to being able to participate and cement our commitments to driving future positive change at Philips.
The vast majority of emissions are derived from scope 3; what is Philips doing to ensure traceability across its supply chain, and what is the role of partnerships here, especially locally?
Challenges in healthcare’s Scope 3 emissions pose difficulties in decarbonisation, requiring collaboration across the entire supply chain. Philips actively engages suppliers through our Supplier Sustainability Program, setting ambitious targets for carbon reduction. By the year-end 2022, 41% of our suppliers had committed to science-based targets, showcasing tangible progress in supplier collaboration.
Our success is interconnected with purposeful partnerships, not confined to corporate realms but extending to local organisations, authorities, suppliers, employees, and customers. This micro-level approach reflects our commitment to responsible corporate citizenship and positive societal outcomes.
How is circularity progressing within the industry?
Circular design is foundational to our endeavours. It’s not merely about efficient products during primary use but ensuring they are conducive to repair, re-use, or refurbishment at the end of their lifecycle. This shift in design philosophy is vital in addressing the significant carbon emissions associated with materials extraction, supply, and equipment manufacturing, known as ’embedded carbon.’
For Philips, achieving circular healthcare isn’t a distant goal but an active journey guided by tangible targets for 2025. Circular practices are embedded in our sites, minimising waste and fostering a circular economy within our operational footprint. Our commitment involves generating 25% of revenue from circular products, services, and solutions, signalling a paradigm shift from traditional product-centric models. Circular design is at the forefront, emphasising longevity, reusability, and responsible end-of-life practices.
For Philips, achieving circular healthcare is a journey actively traversed. Our 2025 targets are not distant benchmarks but stepping stones, decoupling growth from resource consumption, shifting to holistic solutions, and maximising value for customers, patients, and the planet.
Tell me about the potential and challenges associated with AI within healthcare and the responsible AI mechanisms you have in place.
The future of healthcare is smart and connected. It extends beyond the hospital into the home and the community, with digital technology connecting care across settings. The recent years have marked a profound technological transformation in the healthcare industry, laying the foundation for a future shaped by innovation and sustainability.
At Philips, we envision the future of digital health as a connected and highly accessible network of virtual and in-person care, with real-time and predictive insights supporting care collaboration across the patient journey. In tandem, AI-enabled workflow optimisation can help improve operational efficiency so that healthcare professionals get to focus on what they do best: providing patient care. And by enabling people to take better care of their health and well-being, with personalised digital health solutions, we can promote a shift from sick care to true health care.
AI puts people back at the centre of care. At Philips, we believe the value of AI is only as strong as the human experience it supports. That is why we combine the power of AI with our deep clinical knowledge and expertise to create solutions that integrate into the workflows of healthcare providers and people’s daily health routines – supporting them at every stage of their health journey.
For instance, we see healthcare providers leverage automation, enabled by AI, to reduce the burden of repetitive administrative tasks for physicians, nurses and technologists, so that they spend less time in front of computer screens and more time with patients. This can include basic but highly impactful workflow improvements, such as enabling automatic exports of patient monitoring data directly into electronic medical records – a potential boost for the staff’s experience and productivity.
Our commitment to developing patient-centric, AI-enabled systems aligns with the ongoing digital transformation in the Middle East’s healthcare systems. AI-driven solutions, from diagnostic tools to telemedicine, exemplify our dedication to precision, accessibility, and flexibility in healthcare.
Energy efficiency has been highlighted as a cornerstone of decarbonisation; tell me about Philips’ role in driving this forward within the healthcare sector.
Philips’ leadership is committed to ESG and driving sustainability across the healthcare value chain – procurement, operations, innovation, service delivery, supply chain, etc. all the way up to the customers using our solutions. We have set ambitious 2025 ESG/Sustainability targets and have been delivering steady progress and results. We believe in aligning our efforts with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 12 (Sustainable consumption and production) and SDG 13 (Climate action). To achieve these goals, we have set specific targets to reduce our environmental impact and combat climate change by 2025.
Like many countries and companies, the UAE is undergoing an energy transition, working to meet current energy demand while shifting to renewable energy sources that meet net-zero targets. At Philips, we are already carbon neutral in our operations and on track to reach our target of 75% of energy from renewables by 2025. We applaud the work of others to reach their targets and encourage them to move even faster in order to achieve our collective climate ambitions.
How is Philips prioritising data privacy and cybersecurity?
With digitalisation and increased use of AI, Philips is committed to ensuring the safety and security of patients, operators and customers who use our products and services. We don’t just offer hardware and software upgrades, we also support security by design systems, staff training, incident response management and a standards-based approach to safeguard against evolving threats.
Philips Product Security and Services Office governs embedding security in product and services during its entire lifecycle, including Product Security Risk Assessments, project-independent vulnerability and penetration assessments, specialised product security trainings, and response activities for vulnerabilities. We also provide secure, cloud-based platform of services, capabilities, and tools purpose-built for the complex challenges of healthcare, featuring deep clinical databases, patient privacy, industry standards and protocols, and personal and population data visualisations. Hence, customers using our products can be secure in the confidentiality, integrity and availability of critical data and the systems that house it.