Sustainability Measures Driving Indian Healthcare

Sandhya Sriram, Group CFO, Narayana Health

 W2E technologies, waste management, biomedical waste, biomedical waste management, environmental sustainability

In an exclusive interview with Thiruamuthan, Correspondent, India Pharma Outlook, Sandhya Sriram, Group Chief Financial Officer at Narayana Health, discusses healthcare’s sustainable financial strategies. With over two decades of progressive finance leadership at Narayana Health, Wipro Enterprises, and Hindustan Unilever Ltd, she excels in audit, risk management, and strategic financial oversight across diverse sectors.

From your perspective, how do W2E (Waste to Energy) technologies contribute to cost savings in biomedical waste management and enhance sustainability in healthcare practices? Could you elaborate on their impact on operational expenses and environmental benefits?

W2E technologies offer a dual advantage of cost savings and environmental sustainability in biomedical waste management.

W2E technologies have significant potential to contribute to cost savings and enhance a more circular economy. This can result in offsetting energy costs, potential reduction in CH4-Methane & CO2 (GHG Emission) and conservation of land resources, and prevention of contamination of soil & groundwater

By transforming waste into valuable energy and materials, healthcare facilities can reduce operational expenses and mitigate their environmental impact.

Establishing an effective waste management practice in the healthcare sector hinges on the appropriate segregation of waste at its source, considering its hazardousness, infectiousness, and material type. Biomedical waste is categorized into four distinct color-coded groups.

A notable example in this context is the management of Red waste (recyclable contaminated waste – ex: Tubing, bottles, IV tubes and sets, catheters, urine bags, syringes (without needles), and gloves). Through processes such as autoclaving (dry heat sterilization) followed by shredding/mutilation or encapsulation, this waste can subsequently be utilized in road construction and the production of new plastic materials. This innovative approach offers significant opportunities for cost savings and enhances sustainability in healthcare practices.


Managing over 600 tonnes of biomedical waste daily poses a major financial challenge in India. How has the healthcare industry funded solutions to align financial strategies with sustainability goals?

The management of biomedical waste necessitates that healthcare industries adopt a cradle-to-grave approach, encompassing characterization, quantification, segregation, storage, transport, treatment, and disposal. Proper segregation at the source can substantially reduce the costs associated with waste management. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), approximately 25% of biomedical waste is hazardous and requires specialized treatment. The cost of treating and disposing of this hazardous waste can be significantly lowered through appropriate segregation. Nevertheless, even with effective segregation, the management of biomedical waste remains a considerable expense.

To manage the financial challenges associated with biomedical waste management in India, the healthcare industry employs a multi-faceted approach. By leveraging government support (PPP Model for shared investment in waste management projects e.g. autoclaves, incinerators), private investments, internal funding strategies (W2E Plant), and international aid, Sustainable Procurement Practices, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, healthcare facilities can align their financial strategies with sustainability goals. These efforts not only address the immediate financial burden but also contribute to long-term environmental sustainability and public health benefits.


Considering the financial risks associated with recycling medical equipment, the healthcare sector integrates single-use devices. Could you elaborate on the financial implications and any innovative financing models used in this approach?

Considering the financial risks associated with recycling medical equipment, the healthcare sector often integrates single-use devices. It is a paradox that single-use devices are necessary, as they improve patient safety. However, the use of single-use devices generates more medical waste, leading to higher disposal costs. This requires investment in efficient waste management systems to ensure regulatory compliance and environmental sustainability. The proliferation of single-use devices also contributes significantly to plastic waste. Effective solutions currently involve segregation and recycling, but these measures are not sufficient on their own.

There is ongoing work on sustainable alternatives, such as better product design, material substitution strategies, and technologies to reuse plastics in medical applications after decontamination. However, the issue cannot be fully addressed by these measures alone.

A fundamental change in design, more research on applications, and potential reuse and disposal methods for such products are necessary. This comprehensive approach is crucial for balancing the benefits of single-use devices in patient care with the imperative of sustainability.


India's Biomedical Waste Management Rules have imposed improvements in waste segregation and handling. How have these regulations impacted healthcare practices, specifically in terms of cost-effective waste categorization, simplified handling protocols, and financial benefits from compliance?

India's Biomedical Waste Management Rules require biomedical waste to be categorized into specific color-coded bins, streamlining the segregation process at the source. This systematic categorization simplifies waste handling, minimizes the risk of cross-contamination, and enhances overall safety for healthcare workers. Clear guidelines facilitate effective staff training, ensuring consistent compliance across facilities. Additionally, proper segregation at the source, combined with cradle-to-grave tracking using GPS and barcodes for fast-tracking, improves traceability.

Improved segregation also ensures that recyclable and non-hazardous waste is appropriately managed, reducing the volume of waste requiring expensive specialized treatment.

Compliance with these regulations has led to cost-effective waste management. Proper segregation minimizes the quantity of high-cost hazardous waste, allowing healthcare facilities to treat a larger portion of waste through less expensive methods like autoclaving and incineration for specific categories.

Regulatory Adherence reduces the risk of penalties and legal fees associated with non-compliance. Over time, consistent compliance can lead to financial benefits, such as reduced waste disposal costs and potential revenue from recycling programs, ultimately making waste management more sustainable and economically viable for healthcare facilities.

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