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Join us in the Green Maternity Challenge to champion sustainability and drive positive change in maternity care.

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Why we need a Green Maternity Challenge

Maternity services are one of the NHS’s high-volume services, with over 673,000 births in the UK in 2022. Each of these will have been preceded by approximately 30 weeks of regular antenatal care and followed up with postnatal care.

The NHS is responsible for 4% of the UKs carbon footprint - equivalent to the entire emissions of Croatia. NHS services and resource use is therefore contributing to the environmental and ecological crisis. Pregnant women and infants are some of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as extreme heat, air pollution, and natural disasters, which can exacerbate health issues, leading to complications such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and respiratory problems. 

Significant inequalities persist in maternal services across the UK, disproportionately affecting women and birthing people from ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth compared to white women, and Asian women face twice the risk. Additionally, women from the most deprived areas are more likely to experience stillbirth compared to those from the least deprived areas.

Climate change and healthcare inequalities are inextricably linked. Disadvantaged communities are often more exposed to environmental hazards, are less able to recover from these hazards, and often have reduced access to high-quality healthcare. This compounding effect exacerbates health disparities. 

Addressing inequalities and environmental harm from healthcare services not only improves health outcomes and experiences of care, but contributes to a more just and sustainable healthcare system.


What is the Green Maternity Challenge

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH) has partnered with The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and The Sustainable Healthcare Coalition (SHC) in an SBRI funded project "Taking collective action to deliver low carbon, equitable maternity care". 


In the Green Maternity Challenge, six clinical teams in the UK will be selected to receive training and mentoring from CSH to develop, plan, run, and measure the impact of a sustainable quality improvement (SusQI) project. Projects will focus on identified target areas for reducing environmental harm and health inequalities (see below for target areas).


Key Dates and Activities:

  • Application period opens: 24th July

  • Application period closes & shortlisting starts: 20th September

  • Successful teams will be contacted by: 30th September

  • Workshops & start of project period:  14th-18th October

    • Teams will participate in a 90-minute virtual workshop on sustainable healthcare, SusQI methodology, and project development.

  • Project Phase: 14th October - 31st January (16 weeks)

    • Project work: Over 12 weeks, teams will set aims, plan and implement changes, collect data, and calculate the impact of their changes. The CSH environmental analyst team will assist in carbon footprinting the environmental outcomes of the project.

    • Reporting: Complete a SusQI Project report, reviewed and supported by the CSH team.

  • Showcase Event: Wednesday 5th March 2025, date/time TBC

    • Teams will present their projects to a judging panel and audience at an online event.

    • The judging panel will include

      • Dr Ranee Thakar, President of RCOG

      • Fiona Gibb, Director, Professional Midwifery, RCM 

      • Emma Crookes, Lived Experience Representative

      • Dr Frances Mortimer, Medical Director, CSH

    • This event is open to all - those working in maternity care services and members of the public with lived experience or an interest in sustainability within maternity care

Ready to make a difference?

If you’re interested in bringing together and leading a Green Maternity Team to run a project that will make your service more sustainable, please

  1. review the applicant information pack - Available 24th July

  2. complete an application form - Available 24th July. 

Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application by 30th September.

Please consider joining our Women's Health Network - an online community of healthcare professionals committed to tackling the environmental impact of women's health by sharing knowledge, ideas and examples of good practice. 

'Now is your time to point the way to a brighter future. It will be your ideas, collaborative working and innovative mindsets that will lay the path for all delivering maternity care to follow. Do not hold back, come together and submit your ideas and we will support you every step of the way to demonstrate how these ideas can achieve the change that is so evidently required.’

Dr Ranee Thakar

President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) 

12th July 2024 - Announcing the Carbon and Equity target areas that could transform care and launching the Green Maternity Challenge

Watch the recording to learn more about the carbon and equity target areas and the Green Maternity Challenge, or join us at our second launch webinar on 24th July 2024. Applications will open on this date. 

Target areas

Valuing people’s time

Streamlining services and systems to avoid waste

Examples: Tackling delayed discharge, scheduling of appointments, decreasing travel to appointments


Supporting informed choices

Providing relevant information and support so that people can successfully access/implement the choices that are best for them

Examples: Linking into local voluntary provision, access to pain relief, better access to translation services, culturally relevant support, being explicit about sustainability choices e.g. bounty packs


Listening to women and birthing people

Reducing waste and improving outcomes by involving people in their own care, co-designing services, and utilising third sector support

Examples: More say for people in how and where they access care, processes that value their voices

Access and experience for people who experience worse maternity outcomes

Focusing resource and/or re-designing systems to cater for those that the system has underserved before

Examples: Improvement of services for people living in deprived communities, black and asian people, and young mothers and birthing people

Complex pregnancies

Improved systems for those with additional care needs or complications

Examples: hypertension pathway improvements, new ways of monitoring, reducing travel to appointments

Infant feeding

Meeting the unmet need of those who want to breastfeed but lack appropriate support

Examples: improved systems for supporting people in their feeding choices including peer support, culturally relevant nutritional support

Pelvic health and continence

Tackling the long-lasting effects of poor continence following childbirth

Examples: Promotion of ante-natal pelvic health guidance, access to specialist services, improvement to perineal tear care


We believe that by focusing Quality Improvement and service re-design projects around these target areas, maternity care can become more equitable and sustainable. These target areas overlap and many projects will tackle several at the same time.For all improvement work the outcome and experience of the people using the services is key. These should be maintained or improved in particular for people who are underserved by the status quo.

About the Green Maternity Challenge

The Green Maternity Challenge will be delivered by CSH in partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and The Sustainable Healthcare Coalition (SHC) as part of SBRI funded project "Taking collective action to deliver low carbon, equitable maternity care". This work was commissioned and funded by SBRI healthcare is an Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) initiative, in partnership with the Health Innovation Network. The views expressed in the publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of SBRI Healthcare or its stakeholders.

The Challenge is a national adaptation of the Centre for Sustainable healthcare’s Green Team Competition - an award-winning, tried & tested leadership and engagement programme to transform healthcare by cutting carbon, improving patient care and staff experience, and saving money. The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare have been successfully reducing environmental impact and building social value in healthcare through the competition for  9 years. You can view previous Green Team Competition impact reports and case studies here.

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Rachel McLean, SusQI Programme Lead for Competitions and Specialty Challenges

Please contact Rachel for further information or if you have any questions regarding the Challenge.

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