Introduction: What Is Researched?
Rapid growth of health care costs is one of the most critical issues of concern in the majority of countries around the globe, and Australia is not an exception. Nowadays, more than 30 per cent of all health care are associated with supply-related expenditures (Bhakoo, Singh & Sohal 2012). From this perspective, implementing appropriate supply chain practices might be beneficial for decreasing unnecessary supply-related costs. One of the ways to develop and integrate necessary procedures in the achievement of green supply chain that is based on ISO 14001 and 9001 in Australian hospitals that will make it easier to improve their performance and, at the same time, reduce expenditures, thus becoming more cost-effective.
The main problem in this case is the complexity of designing efficient supply chains in health care. The main assumption is that ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 are beneficial for achieving green supply chains regardless of the industry of operation, so arranging the operation of health care facilities according to them is an appropriate strategy for reducing costs and minimizing the impact of hospitals on the natural environment. Nevertheless, the objective of the paper at hand is to develop an efficient green supply chain. In order to achieve this objective, it is essential to address several research questions in a comprehensive and detailed manner. They are the following:
- What is the significance of achieving greening in Australian hospitals?
- What are the main benefits of implementing green supply chain management in Australian hospitals and challenges connected to introducing the novelty?
In order to answer the research questions in an appropriate manner and reach the main objective of the study, it is critical to focus on achieving the following research aims:
- Draw attention to the challenge of scarcities in Australian hospitals;
- Point to the significance of greening supply chains in Australian hospitals;
- Hypothesize on the ways to change hospital directors’ mentality in order to promote the effective and flawless application of green supply chains;
- Develop a green supply chain procedure that will be applicable to Australian hospitals and help them reduce the impact on natural environment and related medical wastes and costs;
- Explain the existing connection between green supply chain management and ISO 14001 and ISO 9001;
- Develop general ways to improve the overall level of environmental performance of Australian hospitals;
- Address the research question from the perspective of integrity and corporate social responsibility.
Methodology: How Will the Project Be Undertaken?
Research Method and Study Design
Answering the central research question requires selecting an appropriate research method and study design. In order to address the research question in a relevant and detailed manner as well as achieve central objective and reach aims of the research, the decision is to select a mixed methods approach as research method. The main assumption behind this choice is the belief that the simultaneous use of both qualitative and quantitative methods is the best option for drawing attention to the challenge of scarcities existing in the Australian health care sector as a whole and hospitals in particular as well as create the required environmental awareness that may become the foundation for implementing green supply chain management in Australian hospitals.
In order to deploy the selected research method effectively and maximize its benefits, it is essential to be aware of its specificities and, based on them, outline the areas for using the two components and their potential contributions to addressing the research questions and achieving research objective. As already specified, a mixed method approach is the combination of qualitative and quantitative research. The quantitative methodology is necessary for systemizing information regarding the issue under consideration by means of collecting data during conducting surveys and documenting observations. The need for doing so is based on the opportunities for testing variables related to the investigated problem (Leech et al. 2010).
Within the context of the proposed research, there are several areas for applying this aspect of the research method. The first one is quantifying losses that are connected to the previously used supply chain management. In this case, it is essential to point to the fact that most Australian hospitals give preference to non-green supply chain management. Even though they work well for the hospitals because they do not require investing in innovations and retraining staff, they are the cause of the increased wastes that, in turn, are associated with skyrocketing expenditures due to the negative impact on the natural environment. In addition, quantitative method is beneficial for estimating the changes in losses and costs that is essential for supporting the abovementioned statement. All in all, this aspect of the mixed research approach is potentially helpful for obtaining a better understanding of the reasons for pointing to the criticality of greening supply chain management in Australian hospitals and offering the foundation for the development of appropriate and effective green supply chain management policies, thus motivating local authorities to support the proposed innovations.
Another aspect of the mixed research approach is qualitative research. It is essential for collecting the perspectives of those involved in working with the existing supply chain management, especially estimate the awareness of the significance of the transition to greening these procedures and environmental issues associated with the current practices. A common tool for collecting qualitative data is conducting interviews and asking respondents to fill in the designed questionnaires. In general, interviews and questionnaires should be developed in a way to address such questions as in what way, how, and why, thus making a significant contribution to proving the main assumption behind this research – the belief in the positive impact of ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 on achieving green supply chains in Australian hospitals and reducing the level of their influence on the natural environment as well as the overall rate of costs related to environmental issues. All in all, using the mixed method will be helpful for addressing the research questions in a proper and detailed manner, as well as achieving the central research objectives, due to the specificities of its design – centering on benefits of greening supply chain and the most beneficial and effective strategies for implementing green supply chain management in Australian hospitals.
Details of the Selected Research Method: Data Collection Procedure
Because the chosen research method is based on two aspects, it is essential to guarantee that enough qualitative and quantitative data is collected. To collect quantitative data – that necessary for estimating costs and losses – it is essential to analyze reports of the selected Australian hospital. In this case, it is imperative to pay special attention to the volume of expenses, especially those related to addressing environmental issues (for instance, covering the negative impact on the natural environment), the change of the overall costs rate, and loss rate.
As for the qualitative data, the foundation for its collection is the simultaneous conduction of interviews and filling in the questionnaires. The specificity of this research aspect is the very fact that both interviews and questionnaires will involve pre-formulated questions as well as conducted within the established timeframe. The rationale for including only pre-formulated questions in the interviews is the desire to avoid risks related to missing some important details due to the human factor – forgetting to raise important issues and ask some questions. In addition, it is associated with the necessity of covering the same aspects of the considered problem with all of the respondents in order to guarantee the relevant analysis of the collected data. A fortnight before the commencement of the study is the selected timeframe for conducting interviews and collecting questionnaires. As for the format of the interview questions, they will be designed as open-ended in order to avoid limiting respondents in their frames of thought when sharing their knowledge about the issue under consideration and maximizing chances of collecting relevant information. The questions included in the designed questionnaires will be close-ended – either multiple choice or one answer is pre-determined. It is essential for making the process of data analysis easier and eliminate risks connected to errors due to failing to deciphering respondents’ handwriting.
As for the setting, the interviews will take place at the workplaces of the selected participants. Once they complete answering interview questions, they will be asked to fill in the questionnaires. In this way, it will eliminate the risks of feeling discomforted during face-to-face communication because it is assumed that questionnaires are helpful for collecting truthful data, as no participants will feel stressed or afraid to share their opinions openly. In this case, it is paramount to note that in order to achieve this objective, it is critical to develop anonymous questionnaires, so even though they are distributed right after interviews, no names are signed and no data is reviewed before all of them are filled in and collected. In this way, the combination of interviews and questionnaires will be beneficial for soliciting the qualitative data. Once all the necessary information is collected, it will be coded based on the main themes raised in answers to interview questions and questionnaires and analyzed.
Research Sample and Sampling Technique
Research sample will include employees of an Australian hospital. In order to address the research question properly and effectively, those occupying different positions within the hospital will be asked to participate in the research. In this way, administrative, management, and medical staff will be involved. As for the sample size, it will include 15 people. The rationale for the small sample size is the desire to pay enough attention to each respondent and the very fact that small research sample is appropriate when collecting qualitative data. All in all, it will help minimize risks connected to failing to process the obtained data due to the extensive volume of information.
Speaking of the sampling technique, the combination of two techniques is appropriate within the context of this research – convenience and purposeful. The rationale for selecting convenience sampling is the necessity to include only those people who are easy to reach. Due to the collaboration with one of the hospitals, its staff is easily reachable. As for the purposeful sampling, the researcher points to its significance due to the necessity of selecting people occupying particular positions within the hospital. Because they are predetermined before the beginning of the interviews, it is essential to choose appropriate people based on their role in the care unit. Therefore, purposeful sampling is the best option in this case.
Relevance of the Research Method
The central motivation for selecting the mixed method approach for completing this research is the fact that the combination of qualitative and quantitative data is the best way to collect reliable and valid data (Creswell 2013). The foundation for this statement is the opportunity to collect data from two sources – reports (quantitative) and reflections (qualitative) – and compare the obtained information in order to make a relevant conclusion. As a result, validity risks are minimized and the collected data is more relevant compared to using only one research method (Thonon et al. 2015).
Expect for the value of the mixed research design in addressing validity risks, it is a common research design used in medical-related research. It can be explained by the reliability of information and conclusions, concurrent use of the two effective research methods, and application of this method to different fields of medical research. For instance, qualitative aspect is helpful for collecting individual perceptions regarding the problem under consideration as well as the information about variables that are vaguely familiar to the researcher. On the other hand, quantitative information is helpful for validating the qualitative component and testing the existing connections between dependent and independent variables. As a result, these specificities turn the mixed approach research design into an attractive and effective tool for completing medical research.
Significance of the Research
This research is significant due to the potential practical change in Australian hospitals in particular and potentially the health care sector as a whole. The main issue behind the practical significance of the research is the increased impact of hospitals on the natural environment and the positive influence of adhering to international standards on reducing it as well as helping overcome the challenge on increased environment-related costs. Nowadays, organizations in the majority of industries operate in compliance with environment-based provisions of legislation, and governments of the most developed states (such as the United States and the United Kingdom) pay special attention to developing detailed and comprehensive frameworks for addressing challenges in this area. In most cases, they switch to environmentally friendly operations – that seen in the transition to green supply chain management. Still, regardless of the expensiveness of the switch from non-green to green supply chain management procedures, hospitals and the medical industry as a whole are the transitioning sectors because environment-related standards have not yet become the benchmark for the sector’s operation (Nolan 2016). Based on it, they are exposed to the increased environment-related costs and search for the ways to maximize profits and performance by reducing costs.
Based on the fact mentioned above, it is evident that greening supply chain management is one of the strategies for reducing undesirable costs and maximizing profits as well as diminishing the negative impact on the natural environment. However, to complete this transition, it is critical to estimate the existing and currently deployed procedures in order to identify the potential gaps and challenges that might hinder the implementation of the innovations.
In this way, because the proposed research will focus on the specificities of one of Australian hospitals, its operation and costs, as well as seek opportunities for implementing green supply chain management, it will be significant for this hospital in the first place. Due to reviewing the specific features of ISO 14001 (providing good environmental practice) and ISO 9001(service quality requirements), it may be beneficial for the selected hospital from the perspective of improving environmental practices, enhancing performance, and reducing costs. As for the health care sector as a whole, it may serve as the guideline for other hospitals to complete the transition to green supply chain management and make this process flawless and effective. All in all, it may be significant for researchers interested in this field of investigation, as it may serve as a framework for the future studies.
Contribution to the Existing Knowledge
Nowadays, the health care sector is constantly expanding. This expansion can be easily seen in the increased volumes of completed work – number of treated patients – and the growing number of functioning hospital. Such a dramatic increase in the quantity of health care units and the volumes of their operation, as well as the materials they use, cannot but have a direct influence on the natural environment. As a result, hospitals face the challenge of increased costs based on the necessity to compensate their impact on the natural environment. Therefore, they are forced to review their operations and seek ways to reduce both costs and environmental footprint.
One of the ways to deal with impressive volumes of waste is to initiate the process of transition from traditionally used to green supply chain management procedures. This need in motivated not only by the desire to preserve the natural environment but also the changes in national legislations promoting the deployment of environmentally friendly processes. It is essential to state that the Australian government, unlike the authorities of other developed states, pays special attention to the improvement of the environmental performance of Australian hospitals. The foundation of the enhancement is the introduction of tighter environmental control measures aimed at decreasing the volumes of pollution, thus reducing environment-related costs.
Based on the overall interest in reducing the negative impact on the natural environment, it is essential to note that, in most cases, the transition to green supply chain management is driven by adhering to two international standards – ISO 14001 and ISO 9001. ISO 14001 is devoted to improving environmental practices, while the focus of ISO 9001 is on fostering the overall quality and performance. What is engaging about these standards is the fact that they are applicable to all industries, and the health care sector is no an exception. However, even though they are popular in manufacturing and other production-related industries, in hospitals, the process is at initial stages due to failing to comply with the strict requirements of the standards and, as a result, implement the recommended changes and maximize their benefits (Nolan 2016).
Based on a wide range of challenges and complexities connected to the implementation of green supply chain management procedures in particular and corresponding to the provisions of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 as a whole, there are several critical issues to address. First and foremost, in most cases, complying with these standards is perceived as a troublesome procedure because the transition requires allocating vast volumes of additional investment in technological upgrading and retraining staff. More than that, most companies perceive these standards as the ground for increased costs because of the necessity to comply with the environmental requirements and report on progress. In addition, organizations fail to understand that all costs are short-term ones which means that, in the long run, benefits and profits outweigh challenges and costs due to the increased quality of provided care and improved overall performance.
Based on the facts mentioned above, it is evident that the common perception of green supply chain management procedures is negative. Therefore, hospitals, just like companies, avoid the transition or, at least, make significant effort to slow the process of transition down. From this perspective, it is critical to point to the mistaken perception of greening supply chain management, thus making health care organizations willing to embrace changes. For instance, it is imperative to mention that fact that there are numerous models for greening supply chain management. Each of them is based on the specificities of a particular organization and its operation as well as the desired outcomes of the implemented innovations. In this way, some of them may focus only on reducing the level of emitted pollutants, while others may develop more comprehensive strategies addressing other critical aspects of hospital operation, such as the decrease in the level of wastes, recycling, and reducing the volume of resources necessary for guaranteeing relevant and effective operation of hospitals and treatment of patients.
Furthermore, there is a significant change in perceiving the overall responsibility for implementing green supply chain management in companies and hospitals. It was not long ago that greening of supply chain management was perceived as a prerogative of separate departments of companies. In addition, it was seen as a responsibility of particular companies – the most innovative ones, – not the universal one. However, as the environmental challenge has become more critical and the majority of organizations have paid special attention to innovating all processes, the issues of greening supply chain management has become a common one for all organizations, and hospitals are no an exception. In this way, the contribution of the research is the opportunity to develop ways for Australian hospital to become innovative and keep up with the times. From this perspective, the study complies with the common knowledge of green supply chain management because it is viewed from the perspective of environmental control measures, purchasing activities, resource allocation, and recycling that are the generally recognized components of strategies aimed at greening supply chain management procedures (Toke, Gupta & Dandekar 2010).
In addition, according to the existing knowledge of supply chain management and the impact of companies and organizations on the natural environment, it is obvious that all challenges are associated with the lack of environmental awareness. It means that all of them may be easily avoided and, as a result, effective strategies for making the environmental footprint less critical may be designed and deployed. From this perspective, it is essential to point to the fact that most operations in supply chain management are interconnected (Shen 2013). It means that changing at least one of them may have a positive impact on the overall operation of the supply chain management process. From this perspective, the proposed model is developed in correspondence with the common knowledge of supply chain management because it views the procedure as a combination of interconnected components.
Summing up everything that was mentioned and explained above, it is possible to conclude that the expected contribution of the research is significant. First and foremost, it is believed that the given study will help to change the overall negative perception of greening supply chain management, thus benefitting Australian hospitals and potentially the health care sector as a whole. This assumption is based on the very fact that the proposed green supply chain management model will be innovative compared to those commonly described in literature. In particular, unlike the generally known greening model, it will not be limited to recycling or solely reducing the negative impact on the natural environment. Instead, the major stress will be laid on improving the whole supply chain management process. This change will, as a result, lead to the reduced costs because it implies re-allocation of used resources. In this way, because the proposed model aims at reducing wastes and effective use of resources needed for guaranteeing effective and relevant operation of any hospital, the major contribution to the existing knowledge is that it will offer and efficient framework for the transition from non-green to green supply chain management process.
At the same time, the foundation of the proposed green supply chain model is proactive minimization of pollution. It means that, unlike the tradition perception of the green supply chain management, it will fill the gap – change the understanding of the greening process and highlight its positive aspects. In particular, it will point to the fact that greening is not necessarily an expensive and troublesome process as it is usually seen. Instead, the reduction of environmental costs and the impact on the natural environment can be achieved by thoughtful and efficient use of machines and avoiding misuse of resources and technologies. All is all, the developed model will contribute to the existing knowledge of supply chain management by making hospital management aware of the fact that reduced costs without profits is better than increased costs with moderate change in profits, if the hospital does not allocate resources and funds effectively and is forced to cover tremendous environment-related expenses.
The expansion of the health care sector is critical for the natural environment due to the specificities of materials used for providing medical care. Therefore, hospitals face the challenge of increased expenses and seek ways to reduce both costs and the negative impact on the natural environment. Implementing green supply chain management according to ISO9001 and ISO14001 is one of the ways to achieve both objectives contemporaneously. From this perspective, the aim of the research is to review potential innovation of Australian hospitals and challenges connected to the transition process. Addressing the research question relevantly and effectively will be of significant practical value due to amending the preconceived perception of ISO9001 and ISO14001 standards and green supply chain management in hospitals as well as design the model of transition for one of the hospitals that may be helpful for the health care sector as a whole.
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