- Within this decade, AstraZeneca plans to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than its 65,000 employees and sprawling network of drug facilities add to it, announcing Thursday a $1 billion program to become "carbon negative" across its business by 2030.
- Launch of the new plan, timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, follows a similar commitment from Microsoft and a decision by Blackrock, the world's largest asset manager, to avoid investments with "high sustainability risk."
- AstraZeneca's announcement mixes existing targets, like a commitment to source 100% of its power from renewable energy by 2025, with new initiatives, most notably the carbon negative pledge. The British pharma also aims to have an all electric vehicle fleet five years earlier than it initially planned.
Businesses' contributions to climate change, and the actions they're taking to mitigate their impact, are in the spotlight, due in part to Microsoft and Blackrock's recent announcements.
AstraZeneca is among the more aggressive drugmakers in setting sustainability goals, having joined the climate initiative RE100 several years ago. As part of that, AstraZeneca committed to 100% renewable power — a goal that pharma peer and fellow RE100 member Novo Nordisk expects to meet next year.
As of 2018, AstraZeneca sourced 29% of its total global energy use from renewables, although it's further along in the U.S. and Europe.
The new goals are more ambitious and will involve AstraZeneca's suppliers as well. The company pledged to work with its contract companies to reduce their direct emissions through to 2030 as part of its aim to go carbon negative.
Additionally, AstraZeneca said it will launch next-generation versions of its respiratory drug inhalers that use a propellant much less likely to contribute to global warming.
Figures from AstraZeneca's 2018 annual report, however, highlight the challenge of reducing the pharma's environmental impact.
In 2018, company operations emitted nearly 1.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, just 0.4% lower than a baseline set three years prior. Energy consumption and water use remained near levels set in 2015 and, while the share of energy sourced from renewables has increased significantly, much of the gains occurred between 2015 and 2016.
Across the pharma industry, climate commitments are mixed. J&J, for example, aims to use 100% renewable power by 2050, while GlaxoSmithKline is targeting 60% by 2030.