Conserving resources in the health sector

The exploitation of synergies between different fields of policy and the reduction of conflicting targets are important activities in the German resource efficiency program (ProgRess). So far, there has only been a rudimentary examination of where the health sector intersects with the topic of conserving resources. This research project’s objective is to exploit synergies and potentials between the policy fields of resource conservation and health. The project is commissioned by the German Environment Agency and develops strategic fields of activity and options to address the topic “Conserving resources in the health sector”.

To tackle this topic successfully, extensive knowledge of resource efficiency must be combined with detailed knowledge about the structures and actors of the German health system. The project applies a mix of methods. Apart from desk research, the core elements here include model-based quantitative analyses based on extended multi-regional input-output tables, expert interviews, an online survey as well as workshops with stakeholders. The main work steps are:

  • Quantitative analysis of resource consumption in Germany’s health system;
  • Identification and characterization of the stakeholders relevant for using resources more efficiently in the German health system;
  • Identification and presentation of best-practice examples for conserving resources in the health system;
  • Identification of fields in the health system that are important for reducing resource consumption and deriving fields of activity and options (including the relevant actors groups) to lower resource consumption in the health system;
  • Deriving policy recommendations and suggestions for further research required.

The research in this project will break new ground in terms of content because so far there has been no systematic examination of how the health sector intersects with the topic of resource consumption.

The results of the quantitative analysis of the direct and indirect resource consumption of the health sector are already available. They show, that the German health sector accounts for approximately 100 million tons annually in raw material consumption (RMC). After all, this equals about 5 % of Germany’s total raw material consumption.

The stakeholder analysis captures structures and institutions of Germany’s health system. At the heart of the analysis are the actual inpatient and outpatient health care services. The input sectors, however, are also very important for understanding the resource consumption. According to the calculations by Fraunhofer ISI, the chemicals sector (i. a. pharmaceuticals), food and drinks, energy, construction activities and medical technology products are of particular relevance. Preliminary insights from the stakeholder analyses begin to show that there are already several actors in the German health sector, who are active in the field of environmental and resource protection. But generally, the significance of this topic is still rather low, and so is the degree to which these actors are cross-linked with environmental and resource protection policy.

The results are highly relevant for policy making because they identify future fields of activity at the intersection between resource efficiency and health policy.


27 June 2017 - 30 June 2020


The project is commissioned by the German Environment Agency (UBA) and financed with funds from the German Federal Government.

Project coordinator

Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, Germany