Decarbonization, corporate governance, & nurturing “eco-disruptive” startups: Bupa’s Race to Zero

By Bupa, Global | March 14, 2024

Together with partners around the world, Race to Zero, partner Health Care Without Harm convened representatives from 98 health care organizations spanning 20 countries to share their learnings from implementing decarbonization and climate resilience initiatives. The Health Care Climate Learning Initiative began with a series of workshops in 2023 that brought together health care leaders to discuss proven practices, share challenges, and collaborate on climate goals and strategies. Discover Bupa’s story below.

We know there is no net zero future economy that doesn’t have healthcare in it. We need to transform healthcare sustainably, and to do that we need a clear north star – to be net zero. We know we can’t do this without adopting a transformation mindset and without working with others. From investing in decarbonization to corporate governance to nurturing “eco-disruptive” startups, Bupa is starting to show results. Bupa has achieved more than 26% Scope 1 and 2 emissions reductions and powers their facilities with 84% renewable energy.

Bupa is an international health care insurer and provider headquartered in London, United Kingdom. Bupa’s purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world. We are an international health care company serving more than 43 million customers worldwide. With no shareholders, we reinvest profits into providing more and better health care for the benefit of current and future customers.

We directly employ around 82,000 people, principally in the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Chile, Poland, New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, Middle East, and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

To look after people’s health, we need to look after the health of the planet, as climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity.

In 2021, sustainability was included in our corporate strategy, and in 2022, we launched our sustainability strategy,  which outlines how we intend to drive real-world climate action in our own business, the health care sector, and the world.

Goals include:

1) Eliminating carbon emissions from our business and value chain, implementing circularity in health care, and providing solutions that enable others to avoid and remove emissions.

2) Driving innovations, research, and advocacy to accelerate climate action and transform the wider health care sector.

3) Regenerating nature.

Hopsital goal

We conducted a materiality assessment to understand the impact of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues on Bupa. This informed our strategy, which has an absolute carbon reduction goal of net zero by 2040. The goal is underpinned by 1.5 degree-aligned science-based targets across all three emissions scopes and investments and validated by the Scienced Based Target (SBT) initiative. It also includes an interim 2025 target for Scopes 1 and 2.

Sustainability strategy implemented

To implement our strategy, we have set key long-term goals but also 2025 priorities against our three main strategic pillars to help us prioritize activity focussed on improving the health of people and the planet. 

1) Reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 40%; engage biggest suppliers on Scope 3 net zero alignments; identify circular solutions; use more sustainable products and services by design.

2) Engage partners to scale health care solutions; apply research to address health challenges and share insights.

3) Support 1 million people to improve their health through nature regeneration programs; work with partners to apply research insights to regenerate nature.

Implementation process

Our sustainability strategy is effectively a transformation program that includes:

Investment: We established an investment fund to support the decarbonization of our operations and value chain and create programs that enable healthy lifestyles and environments to develop resilience in individuals and the wider community.

Operational model: We established new ways of working to accelerate real-world actions and reporting of our decarbonization transition. This includes a new sustainable finance team, who lead Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions reporting and forecasting. See their report in the links below.

Governance: We reinforced governance with a board sustainability committee and sustainability steering committee,  which comprises C-level executives responsible for reviewing the group’s sustainability and ESG agenda and overseeing reporting.

Training: We established a sustainability academy in 2022, beginning with leadership and staff most responsible for influencing our carbon impact.  Training focused on upskilling on climate-related issues and how Bupa can drive transformative change.

Innovation: Our eco-disruptive program empowers colleagues to find solutions to climate challenges by collaborating with eco-start-ups. We’ve worked with nearly 2,000 already, such as a start-up to trial the removal of emissions from anesthetic gases. 

Tracking progress

We measure our carbon footprint using a global carbon data system that captures energy use in all ~2,500 Bupa sites globally. 

We have also built a bespoke Scope 3 model with carbon specialists Carbon Trust that calculates the impact of all our Scope 3 business activities. This model allows us to track year-over-year progress against our Scope 3 targets.

Progress achieved

Mission zero: In 2022, market-based Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions were reduced by 26%. Globally we now use 84% renewable electricity across our operations. (See greenhouse gas emissions report.)

Mission accelerate: We’ve joined the Race to Zero with Health Care Without Harm and are members of the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, a public-private health care collaboration driving sustainable transformation. We co-founded the Climate and Health Coalition to mobilize the private sector on climate and health.

Mission regenerate: For the past seven years, the Healthy Cities program has run across our business in Spain. It mobilizes our people, customers, and communities to take part in activities that are good for their health. In turn, Bupa invests in regenerating urban environments, working in partnership with nature experts. Work is underway to scale up the program globally.

Challenges and lessons learned

Carbon data challenges: We implemented a new sustainable finance team to track emissions performance each quarter and gather actual data on the ground.

Ownership: Real carbon reductions can only be delivered by the teams on the ground who have the most influence on decisions creating carbon emissions, and those teams will only act if they know how. That’s why we’re rolling out training and appointing clinical champions in each country and within each business unit we operate.

In addition to continuing to drive down and design out Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, we are focusing on defining how we transform health care practices to follow sustainability best practices. We intend to not only influence our own provisions but also set the standard for providers our customers use that are not owned by Bupa. This will allow us to create real-world action and measure the impact of the wider health care ecosystem we operate in as a funder.

Further reading 

#Mission Sustainable Health VIDEO content series:

Episode 1 – Mission zero: Mission: Sustainable Health | Episode 1 Mission Zero | Bupa

Episode 2 – Mission accelerate part 1: Mission: Sustainable Health 

Episode 3 – Mission accelerate part 2: Mission: Sustainable Health. Accelerate

Net Zero press release:  Bupa to become a Net Zero business by 2040 | Bupa.com

Greenhouse gas emissions report: Bupa-greenhouse-gas-emissions-report-full-year-2021.pdf

Driving co-benefits for climate and health report – Climate and Health Coalition: Download.ashx (forumforthefuture.org) 

Health Care Without Harm’s case studies: Learning Initiative

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