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Sustainability Annual Report 2021-22

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Sustainability Annual Report 2021-22


Sustainability at NHS Digital

At NHS Digital, we believe that sustainability should be embedded in every part of our working life now and in the future as we join the new unified central body for the NHS in England.

In 2021-22, our sustainability programme continued to measure our environmental impacts and support initiatives to improve the sustainability of the organisation and its supply chain against the backdrop of another unprecedented year of reporting. 

The majority of our employees continued to work from home throughout the year, undoubtedly impacting our operational carbon data which revealed reductions across the estate (a 28% reduction in total CO2e emissions from the previous year). During the year, once we moved out of the extended lockdown phase and our offices started to reopen, NHS Digital’s hybrid working policy and guidance was introduced. It is recognised there is a future need to calculate and include the carbon cost of people working from home, and we have made some progress in improving our understanding of the impacts and benefits of hybrid working and enhancing our tools and reporting.

In October 2021, NHS Digital assumed responsibility for the National Disease Registration Service, transferred from Public Health England, resulting in an increase of full-time equivalents employed by NHS Digital and the addition of employee sites. 

Despite the addition of the inherited NDRS sites, the consolidation of our Leeds and London sites to BREEAM certified buildings has helped us achieve a well performing and stable outlook for our existing estate, which has enabled us to widen our focus towards the benefits of our services and the impacts of our Scope 3 emissions footprint. 

The sustainability programme coordinated contribution from across all areas of the organisation, from corporate functions like Human Resources, Estates and Commercial, to ICT and Live Services, which supported the delivery of sustainability improvements throughout the year. The programme engaged these key areas of the business through 6 operational workstreams.

Our 6 operational workstreams
  • corporate assurance and reporting
  • commercial and procurement
  • ICT and infrastructure
  • live services, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR)
  • estates and facilities
  • culture, communications, and engagement

The programme worked with colleagues and suppliers to improve access to sustainability data. We have increased transparency of our environmental impact and raised awareness of our sustainability agenda. Engaging with colleagues on the subject, the programme created and circulated bespoke communications and facilitated webinars and online training.

In November 2021, the merger of NHS Digital and NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) was announced, which put a pause on all new corporate strategies, including our development of a 5-year sustainability strategy which we had planned for in last year’s report. As shown throughout this report, we instead focused our efforts on improving NHS Digital’s sustainability reporting in anticipation of collaborating with NHSEI on the sustainability agenda. Looking forward, we hope to take our aims and actions with us into the new organisation and work together to share ideas, innovate, and push boundaries to expedite our shared sustainability goals.

Net zero carbon by 2050

At NHS Digital, we are working towards the government’s target of reaching net zero by 2050. In November 2021, we set out our sustainability pledges to help drive the organisation down to net zero as part of the Greener NHS Programme.

NHS Digital has committed to:

  • becoming a net zero organisation
  • providing leadership to the NHS in adopting sustainable digital services – including the establishment of the Cloud Centre of Excellence that will support the shift to more resilient and sustainable cloud hosting arrangements
  • supporting our staff to take action to achieve net zero 

Last edited: 11 November 2022 2:00 pm