GlaxoSmithKline has outlined plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and increase its efforts to improve access to medicines in poor countries.

These are the two main areas covered in the UK drugs giant's corporate responsibility report for 2010. First up, GSK announced a new environment strategy following a three-year review by the Carbon Trust which assessed and certified the firm's carbon footprint across 65 countries, 200 sites and eight business divisions.

GSK says it is committed to a long-term goal for company operations and the value chain to be carbon neutral by 2050. This means there will be "no net greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal of products and the sourcing of raw materials".

£100 million in savings per year

Interim targets have been set to reduce GSK’s overall carbon footprint by 10% by 2015 and 25% by 2020. It is also looking to reduce operational water consumption by 20% by 2015 and to reduce waste to landfill from operations by 25% in that period and to zero by 2020. By doing all this, GSK estimates it can save £100 million per year by 2020 through reduced energy, materials and distribution costs.

As for access to drugs in developing countries, GSK acknowledges that "much still needs to be done by all stakeholders including business, governments and NGOs, to tackle the issue". However, the report notes that in July 2010, GSK created a specific Developing Countries and Market Access business unit , saying that its "success will be judged not only on profits, but also on its contribution to increasing access to medicines".

GSK adds that following GSK’s commitment to reduce prices of its patented medicines in least-developed countries to no more than 25% of their price in the UK (or in France for products not sold in the UK), "sales volumes for the majority of products have increased significantly". For example, in East Africa the prices for GSK patented brands were reduced by an average of 69% and the number of packs sold increased more than fourfold  by the end of 2010.

The company also repeated its pledge to price its malaria candidate vaccine (RTS,S) "responsibly and at a level which is affordable for African countries". If approved, the price will cover costs and generate "a small return of around 5%" which will be reinvested in the development of future vaccines for malaria or other products for diseases of the developing world.

£222 million to charity

GSK also noted that its contributions to charity in 2010 totalled £222 million, an increase of 36% over the previous year. That figure was made up of £147 million of product donations, £53 million in cash, £18 million in management costs and £4 million of in-kind donations.

Chief executive Andrew Witty said "our commitment to running a responsible business underpins everything we do. This means being led by our values and principles, being transparent about how we work and responding to the changing needs and expectations of our stakeholders". He added that "there is always more that can be done but I am pleased with the progress we are making".