Most nursing homes 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.

One way many facilities are accomplishing both of these objectives is by becoming sustainability-focused. In fact, the driving force for sustainability for many organizations is the cost savings that result from sustainable business practices. 

Let’s take a closer look at how and why this is happening and in what ways it can serve care facility administrators.

Initially, the term sustainability 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 sustainability-focused business takes significant steps to protect the environment, make profits legally and fairly, and pay staff fairly including providing appropriate benefits. They also help their local communities. 

For our purposes here, however, focusing on sustainability means (1) looking for ways to reduce consumption and waste, and (2) using these accomplishments to market a 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. To accomplish this, facility managers must know how much they are consuming now, something many are not aware of, and use that figure as a benchmark for improvements going forward.

Many facilities have turned to sustainability dashboards for help. 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 data. These behind-the-scenes people typically suggest ways a facility can reduce consumption and with it, operating costs.

A perfect example of this synthesis recently occurred for a Pennsylvania business. The dashboard detected that each August, trash removal rates went up by $200 per month. The system also reported the company was paying more for trash removal than its peers.

An investigation resulted in the trash removal company reversing the $200 annual charges. The trash removal company then suggested reducing pickups, using larger trash containers and other methods to lower costs further, ultimately reducing the business’ 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 United States. The Natural Marketing Group, a consulting group that focuses on sustainability and wellness issues, surveyed more than 53,000 U.S. consumers. They discovered nearly 60% of them would “consider a company’s impact on the environment when considering the purchase of goods and services and are more likely to purchase from companies that practice sustainable habits.”1

For care facilities, however, marketing does not mean just attracting patients and families. 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 and 19 would not consider working for the oil and gas industry, indicating organizations like this cause problems rather than solve them.

But even more telling is a 2016 Cones Communications study regarding millennials and employment. This study 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. 

· About 70% of U.S. workers say they would be more loyal to a company if it were socially and environmentally focused; the rate jumps to 83% among millennials.

This data tells us many things, but perhaps most important to a long-term/senior care facility, we now realize that doing good pays dividends in more ways than one.

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.