The Latest C-Suite Title: Chief Decarbonization Officer

May 30, 2024
NYC Health + Hospitals says its first-ever chief decarbonization officer will work to fully embed energy efficiency, electrification, and renewable energy initiatives into policy, operations, and capital planning

The healthcare field accounts for approximately 8.5% of the nation’s carbon emissions. Many health systems have begun dedicating resources to the effort to lower carbon emissions, but who is leading these initiatives? In some organizations, it is the supply chain and procurement leadership. But 11-hospital NYC Health + Hospitals has announced the appointment of Omer Cabuk, M.E., as its first-ever Chief Decarbonization Officer. 

In this new role, Cabuk will spearhead the organization’s decarbonization initiatives, adhering to the targets set by Local Law 97 of 2019, which mandates a 40% reduction in operational emissions by 2025 and a 50% reduction by 2030. 

The organization said he will serve as an executive-level strategist, partnering with leadership team, capital project leads, facilities management staff, and other key stakeholders to fully embed energy efficiency, electrification, and renewable energy initiatives for the built environment into corporation’s policy, operations, and capital planning. He will also advise executive leadership on strategic opportunities, critical issues, and risks impacting decarbonization efforts within the organization’s operations. 

Cabuk will also support the health system’s Climate Resiliency Goals by implementing decarbonization projects and initiatives that reduce environmental impacts, enhance energy reliability, improve public health, and ensure sustainable and resilient infrastructure. The announcement of his new title builds on the health system’s Climate Resiliency Plan announced last week.

“Omer Cabuk’s appointment as Chief Decarbonization Officer at NYC Health + Hospitals marks a pivotal moment in our city’s fight against climate change, and his extensive experience and proven track record in sustainability will be instrumental in advancing our decarbonization goals,” said Sana Barakat, Department of Citywide Administrative Services Deputy Commissioner for Energy Management, and the City’s Chief Decarbonization Officer, in a statement. “We are committed to building a healthier, more resilient future for all New Yorkers, and ensuring that our facilities not only meet, but exceed our carbon reduction targets through the appointment of agency decarbonization officers is paramount.”

Other health systems are working on certification of their sustainability efforts. Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest health network, is the nation’s first health system to receive a voluntary certification for sustainability from The Joint Commission.

In March 2024, The Joint Commission specifically recognized four of the network hospitals’ achievements with its Sustainable Healthcare Certification, which was created to assist health care organizations begin, continue or expand their decarbonization efforts.

Among the projects undertaken by four of the network’s hospitals are:
• Implementation of 30 megawatt on-site solar and battery storage system.
• Investment of more than $116 million in energy-efficient infrastructure upgrades.
• 100% of electronics purchased in 2022 were EPEAT-certified.
• $1.71 million saved through reprocessing medical devices and diverting 40,000 pounds of waste from landfills.
• 99% of furnishings purchased were free of harmful chemicals.
• 96.7% of cleaning products were third-party eco-logo certified (green).

The Joint Commission noted that all four hospitals set priorities and governance for sustainability initiatives, including creating baselines to measure three sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and developing an action plan to reduce them. The four hospitals also underwent a virtual certification review to meet The Joint Commission’s performance and accountability standards.

Recognizing the critical need to address climate change through health sector leadership, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) launched the Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector (Climate Collaborative), a public-private partnership of leaders from across the health system committed to addressing the sector’s environmental impact while strengthening its sustainability and resilience.

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