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Sustainable Nursing Practice

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987, Our Common Future - Brundtland Report). Sustainability in the context of healthcare is about progress in the delivery of high quality patient care for all by promoting the three elements of sustainable development - environmental, social and financial.

Last updated: 18/06/2022

Key Resources

Royal College of Nursing (2019) Responding to climate change - RCN position statement. London: RCN.
Royal College of Nursing (no date) Sustainability - why it matters in health and care, and what the RCN is doing about it.
Leaving No One Behind RCN Publication Royal College of Nursing (2021) Leaving no-one behind: the role of the nursing profession in achieving the United Nations sustainable development goals in the UK. London: RCN. 
Publication Cover Royal College of Nursing (2018) Freedom of information follow up report on management of waste in the NHS. London: RCN.
Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (2020) Space to breathe: valuing green space at NHS sites for staff wellbeing. Centre for Sustainable Healthcare. Oxford: CSH. 
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2019) Clean air strategy 2019.

Health Care Without Harm Europe (2020) Health Care Without Harm.

  • HCWH Europe is a non-profit European coalition of health organisations working to transform health care worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint.
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NHS England: Delivering a net zero NHS.

NHS National Services Scotland: Access climate change and sustainability tools.

NHS Scotland: NHS Sustainability action.

Public Health Wales: Health and sustainability.

Scottish Government and NHS Assure (2021) Consultation draft: NHS Scotland climate emergency and sustainability strategy, 2022-2026.

  • Please note the consultation is now closed.
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NurSus (2019) NurSusTOOLKIT project. 
  • The NurSus project aims to develop innovative teaching and learning approaches for Sustainability Literacy and Competency (SLC) within nurse education.
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Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2022) Climate change 2022: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the sixth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press.

UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (2021) UKHACC principles for a healthy and green recovery. London: UKHACC. 
United Nations Development Programme (2017) United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Knowledge Platform. 
  • The United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by UN Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for people and the planet, now and into the future. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
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  • Sustainable Development Goal 3 - Health
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Romanello M et al. (2021) The 2021 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: code red for a healthy future, The Lancet, 398(10311), pp. 1619–1662.
  • The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change is an international research collaboration, dedicated to tracking the world's response to climate change, and the health benefits that emerge from this transition.
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World Health Organisation (2018) Climate change and health, Geneva: WHO.
Many thanks to Rebecca Gibbs from the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, Professor Janet Richardson from Plymouth University and Mark Platt (former RCN Policy Manager) for their help with putting this subject guide together.


Akhtar Akhtar R and Palagiano C (2017) Climate change and air pollution: the impact on human health in developed and developing countries. Cham: Springer.
book cover Berners-Lee M (2020) How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything. London: Profile Books.
book cover Davies L, Daellenbach R and Kensington M (2020) Sustainability, midwifery and birth. Milton: Taylor and Francis.
book cover Gao M, Wang Z and Carmichael G (2021) Air pollution, climate and health an integrated perspective on their interactions. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Gerwig Gerwig K (2015) Greening health care: how hospitals can heal the planet. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Levy B and Patz J (2015) Climate Change and Public Health, New York: Oxford University Press. Levy B S and Patz J (2015) Climate change and public health. New York: Oxford University Press.
Marmot M (2015) The health gap: the challenge of an unequal world, London: Bloomsbury. Marmot M (2015) The health gap: the challenge of an unequal world. London: Bloomsbury.
Mohrman S A and Abraham B (2012) Organizing for Sustainable Healthcare, Volume 2, Bradford: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Mohrman S A and Shani A B (2012) Organizing for sustainable healthcare. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited.
book cover Pinkerton K E and Rom W N (2021) Climate change and global public health. Cham: Springer.
Rich C R, Singleton J K and Wadhwa S S (2013) Sustainability for healthcare management: a leadership imperative, Florence: Taylor and Francis. `Rich C R, Singleton J K and Wadhwa S S (2018) Sustainability for healthcare management: a leadership imperative. 2nd edn. Milton: Routledge Ltd.
book cover Rosa W (2017) A new era in global health: nursing and the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development. New York: Springer.
human dignity book Sieh E and McGregor J (2017) Human dignity: establishing worth and seeking solutions. London:  Palgrave Macmillan. 
Schroeder K, Thompson T, Frith K and Pencheon D (2012) Sustainable Healthcare, 1st edn, Somerset: Wiley. Schroeder K, Thompson T, Frith K and Pencheon D (2013) Sustainable healthcare. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Book subject searches

Use these links to see details of books the RCN libraries hold on each topic.

Journal articles

Use these links to see details of journal articles on each topic.


GreenFILE database.
  • GreenFILE is a database covering research into the impact of humans on the environment. Subjects covered include pollution and its effects on human health, as well as waste management and recycling.
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The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare publications.
  • The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare offers strategic input and consultancy on sustainable healthcare research and practice to national and local programmes.
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The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare - Green Walking in Mental Health Recovery.
  • Green Walking in Mental Health Recovery aims to promote and improve access to green spaces for general adult psychiatric inpatients. It is funded by a grant from the Network for Social Change and delivered by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare in partnership with the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
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TED: 5 questions about climate change.
  • Five short animations explaining concepts and answering important questions related to the climate.
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WWF UK: How big is your environmental footprint?
  • Environmental footprint calculator.
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Royal College of Nursing - The lifecycle of a medical glove.

Barts Health NHS Trust - Cleaner air for East London.

Plymouth University: Nursing sustainability by design.

Royal College of Physicians - Healthcare sustainability.

TED (2021) The tragedy of air pollution and an urgent demand for clean air: Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah.

RCN Library staff

Christine Goodson

Editor of this guide

RCN Library and Archive Service

Page last updated - 18/06/2022