Pascal Soriot and AstraZeneca commit to zero-carbon by 2025, carbon-neutral by 2030. Where's the rest of Pharma?
Pascal Soriot has spent more than 20 years at the top of an industry recently found to emit more carbon than the automotive industry.
He called himself a “global citizen,” and traveled often across three-plus continents. While CEO of AstraZeneca, he commissioned a flight service — media-dubbed AstraZeneca airlines — from Cambridge to the company’s other European hub in Gothenburg. He made few, if any, public statements on the environment or his companies’ impact on it.
Now, Pascal Soriot has had a change of heart.
AstraZeneca yesterday announced a $1 billion plan to eliminate emissions by 2025 and to, by 2030, make their entire supply chain carbon-negative. Soriot said thinking about his grandkids convinced him to push the company towards sustainability.
“I have children and I have a grandson, and they’re going to look at me and say, ‘what did you do?'” Soriot told Bloomberg News from Davos, Switzerland where the annual World Economic Forum meeting is underway. This year has been heavily focused on climate change.
AstraZeneca is not the first Big Pharma company to make such a commitment, although the industry as a whole has been slow to adopt such pledges. Takeda told a JP Morgan crowd last week that they were aiming to be carbon-neutral in 2020. Novo Nordisk said in April they were on track to use only renewables in 2020. Novartis also has a carbon-neutral-by-2025 plan, although it doesn’t include their supply chain.
Notably, none of the eight largest US pharma companies — J&J, Pfizer, Merck, AbbVie, Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lilly, Amgen and Bristol-Myers Squibb — have made similar commitments, although almost everyone has a dedicated portion of their website in which they “recognize,” “believe,” or “understand,” the risks posed by climate change and their responsibility to mitigate that risk.
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s commitment is to a 5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Merck, one of the more committed pharma companies, has promised to make all “external” electricity renewable, but not until 2040. Eli Lilly — far and away the worst emitter of any pharma company as of 2015, according to the paper cited at the top of the article, accounting for nearly 4-times the emissions of AstraZeneca — said they would make a 20% reduction by 2020. Through 2017, they were 8.4% of the way there. A further update promised for June of last year, could not be immediately found on their website.
AstraZeneca will make themselves carbon-neutral by converting to all renewables for heat and power and by switching over their vehicles to electric cars, both within 5 years. They will also begin planting the “AZ Forest” — a 50-million tree reforestation effort, first in Australia and then in France, Indonesia and elsewhere.
They will also unveil a new generation of metered-dose inhalers. These common forms of inhalers traditionally release hydrofluoroalkane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.
Soriot told Bloomberg that, on top of his own consciousness, employees had asked for the company to make a sweeping commitment. But he said one group hadn’t, and it’s part of the reason other companies have yet to eliminate emissions: Shareholders.
“The pressure is not – I believe not – yet strong enough, to be frank,” Soriot said. “Companies will have to be incentivized to do something.”