Pharma companies team-up to reduce emissions  

Seven pharmaceutical companies have announced a joint initiative to reduce near-term emissions and help develop net zero health systems.  

CEOs from AstraZeneca, GSK, Merck KGaA, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Samsung Biologics and Sanofi announced commitments to tackle climate change through the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) Health Systems Task Force, a public-private partnership launched last year at COP26. 

The announcement comes on the back of worsening global climate change. The climate crisis can have detrimental health effects, with non-communicable and infectious diseases, malnutrition, threats to mental health and premature deaths all linked to the crisis.  

For instance, according to the World Health Organization, air pollution causes around seven million premature deaths every year, and extreme heat kills around five million. More so, whilst health systems need to respond to the impacts of climate change, at the same time, they are responsible for 4-5% of global net emissions.1 

Three areas of priority  

The Task Force will now take collective action to address emissions across three priority areas: supply chains, patient care pathways and clinical trials. The companies will agree on a set of common supplier standards designed to decarbonise the supply chain and will pursue green transportation corridors. Other efforts include plans to build an emissions measurement tool that allows stakeholders to measure and track emissions across the care pathway. The companies will publish product-level life cycle assessments (LCE) data in a bid to become more transparent in their sustainability targets.   

For clinical trials, a common framework to measure emissions from these activities will be developed. The companies will commit to a common framework by 2023 and will begin to measure greenhouse gas emissions in Phase II and III clinical trials. Subsequently, the companies aim to report emissions data from Phase II and III trials beginning in 2025.  

More so, from 2025, the companies will look to include a review of how digital solutions can reduce emissions, with a target of including over 90% of their clinical trials in this review.  

Official comments 

Speaking about the efforts, Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca, and Champion of the SMI Health Systems Task Force said: Climate change is the greatest global health threat of our time. During the pandemic, the healthcare sector stepped up and showed what can be achieved when we work together. Today, we act with the same urgency to tackle the climate crisis, with the collective commitments announced by the Sustainable Markets Initiative Health Systems Task Force setting a benchmark for others to drive action.” 

The SMI Health Systems Task Force also includes members from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and healthcare, academic and non-governmental organisations.  

The case for decarbonising our health systems is clear, and failing to keep the 1.5°C goal alive will have irreversible impacts on global health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. Transitioning to low-carbon, climate-resilient health systems is essential for every country’s journey towards universal health coverage. The commitments announced today demonstrate the power of public-private partnership to achieve positive and sustainable change for the health of people and the planet.” 

Government support  

The Task Force will provide support to governments though its partnership with the Alliance for Transformative Action on Health and Climate (ATACH). Through this, the Task Force will provide recommendations to governments that are committed to deliver climate resilient and low carbon health systems 

References  

1: https://www.arup.com/perspectives/publications/research/section/healthcares-climate-footprint 

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