Leading pharma companies are setting targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, and reporting on their progress in meeting them. That’s according to a new study we at Oxford PharmaGenesis conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Oxford. But when it comes to reporting on supply chain emissions, more collaboration is needed – and the time is now.

Our study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in February 2023, found that 19 of the 20 (95%) largest pharmaceutical companies (by annual revenue) have set targets for their own greenhouse gas emissions in alignment with international standards. And all 19 are reporting progress against those targets, using strategies such as increasing renewable energy use, optimizing energy efficiency or switching to an electric vehicle fleet.

We saw that, as just over half of the companies (55%) report comprehensively on their supply chain emissions that typically make up the bulk of total emissions, there’s a pressing need for further action.

The supply chain as a solution

This study, which is, we believe, the first to examine the climate change targets and emission reduction strategies of leading pharmaceutical companies – arose from a collaboration with study lead and DPhil student, Dr Amy Booth, after she and her supervisor, Professor Sara Shaw, reached out through our shared membership of Green Templeton College to ask for advice. My colleagues and I jumped at the chance to get involved.

As a 500-strong consultancy serving the pharmaceutical industry, we at Oxford PharmaGenesis wanted to help to understand the commitments that our clients are making and the actions they need from suppliers like us to meet their goals.

By analysing companies’ annual reports, we found that 19 had committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, 10 to carbon neutrality and eight to net zero emissions between 2025 and 2050. With time ticking fast, it was clear that we in the supply chain need to think creatively about how to be part of the solution.

Oxford PharmaGenesis has already been taking steps towards sustainability through pioneering approaches to eposters and virtual conferences. This study emphasizes the need for creative solutions to one of our clients’ – and the planet’s – most pressing problems.

The study also informed our increasing investment in sustainability, including measuring our carbon footprint and signing up to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), as well as joining the Sustainable Medicines Partnership. We are very proud that these efforts have been recognized with a silver medal for sustainability from EcoVadis.

The case for collaboration

‘Time is short’, our study notes in its conclusions. And more collaboration is needed.

At Oxford PharmaGenesis, innovation lies at the heart of our HealthScience communications approach, and we are just as passionate about using it to support clients in reducing their environmental impact, as we are about reducing our own.

We hope that our research will inspire more companies to share ideas and best practice to bring about sustainability in pharma for good.

Further reading

Booth A, Jager A, Faulkner SD, Winchester CC, Shaw SE. Pharmaceutical company targets and strategies to address climate change: content analysis of public reports from 20 pharmaceutical companies. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2023;20(4):3206.

If you’d like to learn more about the study, or find out more about how Oxford PharmaGenesis is taking action to embed sustainability in its operations worldwide, please get in touch with Chris Winchester at chris.winchester@pharmagenesis.com.