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  • Sumalatha Venugopal

Environmental sustainability and procurement: purchasing products for the dental setting

Procurement is the term that is used to refer to the process or the act of sourcing or obtaining services or goods for a business. Procurement spans the entire buying process, from identifying needs and gathering quotes to selecting vendors and managing contracts.

Sustainable procurement is when these goods or services are sourced in a way that has a reduced impact on the environment throughout their life-cycle, as compared to alternative products/solutions. Procurement accounts for nearly 20% of the carbon footprint within NHS dentistry in England and that’s why looking at our purchasing strategy and how we can change this to become more sustainable can make a huge difference to the professions carbon footprint.

Who makes the purchasing orders in your practice or trust? Are they thinking about their orders and how sustainable they are?

Lets look at the procurement process:

Who to buy from?

As a profession we could have quite an impact on manufacturers. If we choose to buy from more sustainably transparent providers, could that influence others to become similarly sustainably responsible? The dental team need to question the industry regarding the sustainability of their products.

There is also increasing evidence that how healthcare systems purchase healthcare goods, usually via a global supply chain, may not always be ethical and that some of the products purchased are to the detriment of basic labour, safety and human rights of workers, often within the developing world. Within dentistry, the BDA has published a useful guide on sustainable and ethical procurement.

When to buy?

Stock management is important. We need equipment and materials to deliver safe patient care at the right time, but there is an environmental impact to the transporting of these supplies. For environmental and economic reasons, the team should ensure that the correct amount of supplies are ordered. Can you buy with other practices to reduce on transportation?

What to buy?

· Single use devices

Some single use items are mandatory (e.g endodontic files) but others, such as gowns, may not be. Its not just the product itself, its also the packaging and transport for all of them. Its worth thinking about appropriate cross infection and decontamination guidance for these. Could a reusable be the option of choice?

· Chemicals

In the UK, COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations requires dental employers to control exposure to hazardous substances in order to prevent ill health.

What about the packaging?

How are the manufacturers we buy from managing packaging and recycling? Do they reuse ore recycle? Manufacturers should provide recycling information for medical equipment components. If they don’t, requesting this could encourage manufacturers to start providing it.

It is prudent for the dental team need to consider overall whole life cycle costs before deciding which products they purchase. Small considerations in this regard could have substantial long-lasting impact.

Click here for original reference article and to find out more!

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