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How Can the Pharmaceutical Industry Overcome Barriers to Reducing its Carbon Footprint?


Åsa Bergström, Director of Sustainability, Recipharm explores how pharmaceutical companies can address challenges to making a meaningful contribution to global carbon emissions reduction.

As a result of centuries of carbon and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human industrial activity, the Earth is already about 1.2°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s. Worryingly, atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise despite efforts over recent decades to address the issue.1

To keep global warming under 1.5°C (to minimise the worst effects of climate change), in 2015, some 195 countries, including the European Union (EU), signed the Paris Agreement. In doing so, they committed to reducing their economies’ GHG emissions by 45% by 2030 and to reaching net zero by 2050.2

The pharmaceutical industry has a key part to play in supporting the effort to tackle climate change by reducing its own carbon emissions. However, this is easier said than done. There is more to addressing a company’s carbon footprint than drawing up a list of energy reduction targets for its own sites. Every aspect of a company’s operations and its supply chain needs to be explored to identify how CO2 and other GHGs can be removed from key processes, how to mitigate remaining emissions and where energy savings can be made. Moreover, the greater the coordination with the wider industry, the more effective efforts will be.

How can pharmaceutical companies minimise emissions? How can they set effective targets to make a meaningful reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions and how can they coordinate with other companies to amplify their impact?

The Importance of Target Setting

Multiple factors have made it pressing for pharmaceutical companies not just to set ambitious GHG emissions reduction targets, but to report on progress regularly.