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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: 29/07/2021

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.
Cartwright A (2019) Combating climate change - the view from maternity, Royal College of Nursing blog, 11 July.
Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (2020) Space to breathe: valuing green space at NHS sites for staff wellbeing. Centre for Sustainable Healthcare. Oxford: CSH. 

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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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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Sustainable Development Unit (2019) NHS long-term plan.
Sustainable Development Unit (2020) Sustainable Development Strategy for the Health and Social Care System 2014 - 2020. Cambridge: SDU.
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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Watts N et al.  (2020) The 2020 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: responding to converging crises. The Lancet, 397(10269), pp. 129-170.
  • 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.
Fetzer A V and Aaron S (2010) Climb the green ladder: make your company and career more sustainable, Hoboken: Wiley. Fetzer A V and Aaron S (2010) Climb the green ladder: make your company and career more sustainable. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.
Gerwig Gerwig K (2015) Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet. US: Oxford University Press.
Griffiths J (2009) The health practitioner's guide to climate change: diagnosis and cure, London: Earthscan. Griffiths J (2009) The health practitioner’s guide to climate change: diagnosis and cure. London; Sterling, Va; Earthscan.
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.
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. Second;2; Milton: Routledge Ltd.
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 (2012) Sustainable Healthcare. Bristol: John Wiley & Sons and BMJ Books.
Mohrman S A and Abraham B (2012) Organizing for Sustainable Healthcare, Volume 2, Bradford: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Worley C G, Mohrman S A and Shani A B (Rami) (2012) Organizing for Sustainable Healthcare. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited.

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 free 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.

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.

Sustainable Nursing Practice videos

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

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.
RCN Library staff

Christine Goodson

Editor of this guide

RCN Library and Archive Service

Page last updated - 29/07/2021