This month’s Meet the Innovator interview is with Anna-Lisa Mills, Sustainability Manager at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust which, in 2020, introduced a smart carbon platform and five-step process to reduce its carbon footprint and that of its suppliers.

The innovation won the Net Zero Innovation of the Year category at last year’s Innovate Awards, for its ‘Towards a net zero carbon supply chain’ initiative. The awards celebrate innovation in health and care and are delivered by the AHSN Network in partnership with NHS Confederation.

In this blog, Anna-Lisa tells us about the trust’s Race to Zero and her passion for tackling the climate emergency.

Tell us about the innovation. The what and the why?

The NHS represents more than 5% of the UK’s total carbon footprint and has committed to achieving a net zero NHS by 2040.

As one of the largest NHS trusts in the UK – and the first healthcare organisation in the world to declare a climate and health emergency – Newcastle Hospitals has committed to the ambitious goal of becoming a net zero carbon organisation by the earlier deadline of 2030, as part of the global Race to Zero campaign.

In partnership with SmartCarbon Ltd., we developed and implemented a process to measure, report and reduce our own emissions, using best practise guidelines and a healthcare version of the company’s SmartCarbon Calculator (a digital tool / platform which calculates carbon footprint).

Addressing the trust’s own Carbon Footprint is, however, only part of the answer. It’s estimated that its supply chain emissions contribute to more than 75% of its total carbon footprint (Carbon Footprint Plus).

To tackle this issue, Newcastle Hospitals and SmartCarbon Ltd. worked collaboratively to develop a five-step net zero supply chain framework – a process which supports suppliers to measure, report and reduce their emissions – alongside a programme to proactively engage and recruit the trust’s 3,400 supply chain members to the process. This five-step process is soon to become mandatory for all of the trust’s suppliers, in pursuit of the its goal of a net zero Carbon Footprint Plus by 2040.

Which AHSNs have you been supported by?

Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North ​Cumbria (AHSN NENC) has supported us to promote and spread our innovation amongst suppliers, through the sponsorship, organisation and promotion of a number of networking and cross sector collaboration events. It has also supported us by adopting and implementing the process itself and by promoting the innovation across other AHSNs, in order to implement the solution across other trusts.

UCLPartners has supported us by developing a process to promote and implement the process across its ten trusts.

What’s been the toughest obstacle to date?

Identifying the right people in the trust’s supply chain. We have been lucky that 22% of our supplier base engaged early, but after these early adopters joined the programme, recruitment slowed down due to gaps in supplier stakeholder intelligence.

What are your hopes for the future?

I’m really looking forward to our big annual supplier event in St. James’s Park in Newcastle, at which we will be announcing that the five-steps are mandatory; a contractual requirement for all NUTH suppliers going forward.

My goal is for 100% of NUTH’s 3,400 suppliers to be engaged and consistently reporting on an annual basis, with a broader ambition for the programme to be expanded to include wider networks, such as the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) and the local authority networks etc.

Ultimately, the aim is for all Newcastle Hospitals’ suppliers to reach the goal for net zero carbon emissions before 2040, meaning that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon are prevented from entering the atmosphere each year.

What’s the best part of your job?

To date we’ve got 760 suppliers on board so far, which is 22% of our supplier base, and I must admit that seeing supplier response to the initiative, and receiving positive feedback (examples below), makes it all feel like my energies are well invested in this programme.

I suffer terribly from extreme climate anxiety and am passionate about acting urgently to tackle the climate emergency. 2040 is only 17 years away, we can’t afford to delay. Coincidently, I plan to retire in 2040 – and if I can contribute to facilitating 3,400+ companies to achieve net zero, then I can look back and think “that was a career well spent”.

What are your three pieces of advice for budding innovators?

  1. Can you invent the silver bullet answer to the climate emergency?
  2. Can you invent solutions to help mitigate or adapt to the changing climate and the greatest crisis facing humanity?
  3. Whatever field you are in, remember to embed low carbon thinking and a life cycle perspective into your ideas, innovations and business models.

What do service users say?

“The SmartCarbon platform is a comprehensive tool to measure and track our performance across our full carbon footprint plus, covering all scopes of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. In what we believe is the first in the sector, we have directly engaged with our supply chain companies to support each other on the journey to net zero.”


Associate Director for Sustainability | Newcastle Hospitals

The SmartCarbon platform has provided one central reporting point for all our carbon related data. Using the tool has increased our confidence in the accuracy and completeness of the reports and the supply chain module has enabled us to address the largest part of our carbon impact.


Assistant Sustainability Manager | Newcastle Hospitals

To find out more about the five-step net zero supply chain framework, email Anna-Lisa Mills.

Find out more about the Innovate Awards 2023 here.

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