Iñaki Ereño: Last Chance to protect the health of the planet

Inakai Ereno
Published by Iñaki Ereño
Group CEO

06 September 2021 . International

An opinion piece by Bupa Group CEO, Iñaki Ereño, who shares his thoughts in Spanish online newspaper El Español on the urgent need for action to protect planetary health, and how important this is for human health. Read the English translation below.

When the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed in 2015, we did not know how relevant they would become for our lives in the spring of 2020. We all had the perception that the SDGs were a historic agreement, but the pandemic has made one thing clear: our lives depend on the achievement of these 17 goals.

The past 18 months has highlighted the relationship between the planet's poor health and our own worsening health. After these months, the struggle to achieve these goals represents the greatest challenge we face as a society.

The SDGs constitute the agenda of our urgent needs, the great challenges the world is facing. Each one of them, broken down into various targets for the next fifteen years, shows us the framework in which to act. Wherever we can contribute, we will do so. As a specialist health company, it is in SDG 3 (health and well-being) where we can create the greatest positive impact.

One Health is the health approach we have adopted to contribute most effectively not only to this goal, but - directly or indirectly - to all the others. Because health is the foundation for healthy, sustainable and inclusive economic development.

The SDGs are grouped into the three dimensions of: sustainable development: environmental (6, 13, 14 and 15), social (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11 and 16) and economic (8, 9, 10, 12), as well as the global requirements needed to enable progress such as justice, effective institutions and partnerships (16, 17). These are all interdependent on each other. Health is in the environment: ensuring it requires a clean, healthy and sustainable natural environment, which in turn is the basis for economic development.

As I said, I am absolutely convinced that in order to take care of people's health, it is essential to take care of the planet's health as well. As the One Health approach proposed by the World Health Organisation states: people and planet, one and the same health.

In other words, at Bupa, an international company specialising in people's health, we cannot do our job if we are not committed to creating a healthy environment that could prevent the next health emergency and those that follow. We are aware that the degradation of biodiversity makes us vulnerable to infectious diseases outbreaks. Covid was only the most recent pandemic, but there will likely be others.

Addressing global challenges will require the work of businesses. We cannot wait for governments to tell us what to do. We must take the lead and be the standard bearers of a new economy and society. To achieve this, digital tools are crucial, even more so in the field of health.

Digitalisation will accelerate progress towards a more sustainable global economic system. So we have a golden opportunity: digitalisation and sustainability are the foundations on which we will rebuild our economy and generate jobs and opportunities for prosperity.

“Health is the foundation for healthy, sustainable and inclusive economic development”

At Bupa, we embrace the idea of mitigating our negative impact on the environment, but also the idea of generating positive impacts on the environments in which we operate. That's why, back in 2014, we established a £50m (over €58m) investment fund to reduce our CO₂ footprint and continue to invest between 1% and 2% of CapEx annually in energy efficiency.

As we continue to move towards making the transition to a decarbonised economy, we have committed to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). This brings together more than 1,000 companies from around the world who are committed to reducing their emissions in line with climate science to achieve the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

We will be announcing our science based targets, across all three emissions scopes, later this year.

This means our group will dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, and we aim to become a Net Zero company globally. We are already consuming a majority of renewable energy in some of our markets and aim to power Bupa globally with renewable energy over the next few years.

In fact, 100% of the electricity we use in Spain and over 90% in the UK comes from renewable sources, and we have photovoltaic panel installations to generate solar energy at our residences in Spain, the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

It is also important to note that we are also committed to sustainable architecture. Our Sanitas headquarters in Madrid is the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental) certified building in Spain. It was also the first non-residential building in Spain to obtain BREEAM® certification (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology), which is the most technically advanced method for assessing and certifying sustainability in buildings. In the United Kingdom, in 2018 Bupa's headquarters in Manchester was certified as a healthy workplace by Fitwell.

Additionally, at Sanitas we are building a healthy and sustainable customer journey: we review all customer touch points with us to neutralise their negative impacts. How? By digitising them.

“Covid has only been the most recent pandemic, but there will likely be others.”

Thus, we have launched the Zero Emissions Video consultation: when a customer accesses a video consultation or downloads a prescription or a medical report via our app, they are informed of the CO₂ emissions they have avoided by not travelling. We are not only making medicine more accessible, but also more sustainable.

New habits

On the other hand, the cities we live in must promote the health of the people and their resilience to pandemics. Across Bupa, and of course here in Spain through Sanitas, we are working to make our cities healthier environments where people can enjoy longer, healthier, and happier lives, while creating a better world.

To this end, more than five years ago we created the Healthy Cities by Sanitas project, which contributes to several SDGs (3 - health and well-being; 11 - sustainable cities and communities; 13 - climate action; and 17 - partnerships to achieve goals). This is an initiative which, through an online platform, 80 companies have joined in 2021 to promote a healthy lifestyle among their 250,000 employees.

In return, in each edition, we invest in creating or regenerating urban green infrastructure in different cities, such as the planting that Sanitas did for the Metropolitan Forest in Madrid.

These are just a few examples of what companies, as social agents, can do for their citizens. In addition to all the resources and projects, Bupa has more than 84,000 employees worldwide. If we can make them all aware of the importance of working as a community for the SDGs, we will be a powerful force for change.

The time is now. We are the last generation that can do something to curb the effects of climate change, that is making our health worse in plain sight. We must not falter. It is time to act, together. Bupa and all of us at Bupa know that this is the way forward, our goals are clear, and we must join forces between governments, businesses, civil society and individuals.

Translated from the original Spanish article and reproduced by kind permission of El Español.

Inakai Ereno

Iñaki Ereño

Group CEO

More about this author

Notes to editor

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world.

We are an international healthcare company serving over 31 million customers worldwide. With no shareholders, we reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

We directly employ around 85,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Chile, Poland, New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, the US, Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com.

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world.

We are an international healthcare company serving over 31 million customers worldwide. With no shareholders, we reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

We directly employ around 85,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Chile, Poland, New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, the US, Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com.

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