Mónica Lisett Castaño Tovar was still a child when she observed how a bauxite mining operation polluted the Jamundi river in Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Awareness about the environmental damage caused by the mine left a deep impression on her.

Castaño Tovar became a mother at age 16 Her family disapproved of her decision to start a family and she felt as if though her world was falling apart. Nevertheless, she forged ahead and completed her studies with excellent grades. She also entered university and eventually graduated as an Environmental and Natural Resources Manager. 

Since 2005, Castaño Tovar has been working as an environmental manager in Fundación Valle del Lili, a tertiary care hospital in Santiago de Cali that treats more than 90,000 patients a year.

From the outset, she had to overcome obstacles. “Incredibly, one of the greatest challenges I’ve had to deal with was learning how to cope with chauvinistic prejudice,” she says. “Another issue was that we were the first health care institution in the country to introduce an Environmental Management System certification process. 

As a manager, Castaño Tovar has focused on sustainable procurement. The CoEco program, otherwise known in Spanish as the Compras Ecólogicas or Ecological Procurement, was launched in 2012. Thereafter, the initiative received support as a result of collaborating with Health Care Without Harm which increased the project’s sustainability focus within the SHiPP project.

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