Biogen is embarking on a 20-year journey to eliminate fossil fuel emissions across its global operations by 2040, making it the first Fortune 500 company to commit to such an initiative.
The Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, with an office in Ontario, has pledged $250 million for the “first-of-its-kind” program called Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives. It will also involve collaborating with institutions like MIT and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to advance the science around how fossil fuels impact human health, taking action to promote climate and health equity.
“I am not aware of any other company that has pledged to go fossil fuel-free across their entire global operations,” Bill Sisson, executive director, World Business Council for Sustainable Development North America, said in a press release. “While others are taking significant steps to get to net zero carbon emissions, Biogen is taking the next step by eliminating fossil fuel use in all aspects of its business. I applaud their ambition.”
Fossil fuel emissions play a direct role in the worsening of various health conditions, and emerging data suggests possible links to COVID-19 as well as brain health. Biogen’s objective is to advance the science in this area.
In 2014, the company was first in the life sciences industry to achieve carbon neutrality.
“We believe that it is time to take even greater action by implementing a well-defined program that examines how we live, how we do business and how we consume energy,” said CEO Michel Vounatsos. “By doing so, Biogen will play its part to address and impact dramatic health disparities among people around the world, as well as build a stronger, more sustainable future for all.”
Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives has two principal components. It aims to move beyond carbon neutrality by eliminating emissions on an accelerated timeframe. A long list of targets include powering operations entirely by renewable energy and increasing investments in high-performing ESG companies and investment funds. It will also ask suppliers to phase out fossil fuels. The goal is that 80 per cent of suppliers commit to science-based targets by 2025 and that 50 per cent source 100 per cent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, expanding to 90 per cent of suppliers by 2040.
Global leaders like Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE) will guide Biogen on using data science and predictive analytics to drive strategies to stop environmental and health impacts from climate change, influence policy and improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations.
“Climate change has a direct impact on health today, and people of colour and low-income communities are being hit first and worst by this crisis,” said Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of Harvard Chan C-CHANGE. “The climate crisis is an urgent public health issue and one that healthcare systems, particularly community health centers, are unprepared to address, whether in terms of infrastructure, operations or standards of care.”