Pharma & med tech announce critical climate breakthrough

By Climate Champions | September 22, 2021

The pharmaceutical and medical technology sector is the latest to join a group of 15 major industries that have achieved a major breakthrough in climate action.

To reach this milestone means that over 20% of major actors by revenue within the sector have joined the Race to Zero campaign — the world’s largest alliance of non-state actors credibly committed to halving emissions, at the very latest, by 2030.

The Climate Champions congratulates these businesses, as well as Accelerators such as the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, for their commitments and contributions to building a low-carbon, resilient, and healthier world. Looking to COP26 and beyond, we encourage more sector actors to join them on this fundamental journey.

Role of sector in mitigating emissions

Pharma and med tech companies are pivotal in decarbonizing healthcare, especially given the nature of healthcare’s interlinks between public and private partnerships, which are critical to catalyzing climate action.

“With a growing impact of climate change on health, the Healthcare sector also needs to take responsibility in driving a sustainable net-zero transformation. Close partnerships between government and the private sector, as well as cross sector collaboration will be essential in the fight against climate change,” said Susanne Andreae, Head of Health and Healthcare Industry, World Economic Forum.

Many companies are already firmly on a net zero trajectory. Philips’ initiatives, for example, include sourcing over 75% of its total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2025. Its operations, as of last year, are already carbon-neutral. Similarly, GSK has committed to net zero emissions across its full biopharma value chain by 2030.

Innovation and technological advances will be critical in driving down sector emissions. Biogen’s Green Chemistry programme, for instance, aims to innovate processes to improve product performance whilst delivering environmental benefits. Its “green-by-design” approach to two early phase pipeline projects, aiming to treat multiple sclerosis and neuropathic pain, could result in up to 70% waste reduction.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J), meanwhile, through their Healthy Lives Mission, has committed $800 million up to 2030 to improve the health of people and the planet through sustainable processes and product innovation. Increasing investments in technology will drive innovation within the sector, delivering both economic and environmental gains.

Breakthrough Outcome 

Beyond reaching Breakthrough Ambition, the UNFCCC 2030 Breakthroughs Campaign also includes sector-specific Breakthrough Outcomes for 2030.

Given the high emissions attributed to Research and Development (R&D) via laboratories and procurement, the sectors’ Breakthrough Outcome is for “95% of labs across major pharma and med tech companies” to be “My Green Lab certified at the green level by 2030”. The Green Lab Certification, run by My Green Lab, is the “global standard for laboratory sustainability best practices” and acts as a catalyst for achieving sustainability in science. AstraZeneca has already adopted this Certification in over 65 labs worldwide, helping them to decarbonize healthcare R&D.

To achieve this Breakthrough Outcome, all key pharma and med tech businesses must play their part by setting ambitious sustainability goals. Together, the sector can work to deliver these commitments and ultimately achieve net zero.