Biogen plans to eliminate fossil fuels in 20 years with ambitious $250M plan

Biogen employees on bikes/fossil fuel plan announced
Biogen employees on bikes take their company's green goals and improved public health mission to heart. (Biogen)

As a pharma company, Biogen is obviously in the business of improving people's health. Now, it's launching a $250 million initiative aimed at the health of the planet.

"Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives" is Biogen’s 20-year plan to eliminate fossil fuels across all its operations. It's now the first Fortune 500 company committed to being fossil-fuel free by 2040.

Biogen’s plan includes its supply partners. It wants 80% of its suppliers to commit to science-based targets by 2025. Regarding energy use, Biogen expects half of its suppliers to completely source electricity from renewable sources by 2030, with a further goal of 90% by 2040, Nicole Murphy, Biogen senior vice president of global manufacturing and technical operations, said in an email interview.

RELATED: Biogen execs outline setbacks, and potential gains, from COVID-19 pandemic

While the focus is on the planet, evidence shows that pollution has a negative effect on human health as well. Murphy referenced a Lancet report that showed air pollution is “one of the 12 modifiable factors contributing to dementia.”

Biogen itself achieved carbon neutrality six years ago, but with further research showing that's not enough, the pharma is now upping its game to go "beyond net zero." The bold plan, begun before the COVID-19 pandemic, is focused on erasing negative effects on the environment.

“Operating our state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing site in Solothurn with 100% renewable power will be equivalent to taking 1,500 vehicles off the road, or powering the Eiffel Tower four times over, each year," Murphy said. 

In the U.S., the Biogen team in North Carolina invented a way to reduce the use of plastics in its manufacturing process to the tune of eliminating 2,600 pounds of fossil-fuel derived plastics from the waste process every year.

Biogen will also change over its fleet of vehicles to electric within five years and set up charging stations at 30 corporate locations. By next year, it will have established "green chemistry" targets with the intent that all products will meet more than 90% of the goals by 2030.

To get the message out, Biogen is talking to stockholders, posting on social media, and adding information and plans to its website, which will be updated regularly. 

RELATED: AstraZeneca aims to go carbon free by 2025—and it'll spend $1B to do it

Biogen joins a handful of other pharma companies ramping up environmental efforts this year. 

AstraZeneca unveiled its Ambition Zero Carbon program in January with a pledge to achieve zero carbon emissions from its global operations by 2025. AZ plans to spend up to $1 billion on efforts that include converting its energy consumption to renewable sources for both power and heat and switching to electric cars. Outside its walls, the drugmaker will ask suppliers to cut carbon emissions to become carbon negative across its entire value chain by 2030.

In July, the Novo Nordisk Foundation announced a donation of €100 million ($112 million) to Biosustain, a research center at the Technical University of Denmark that pioneers renewable alternatives to drugs, consumer goods and other products typically made from fossil fuels or rare plant materials.

Last month, Novartis revealed its goal to become carbon neutral across its supply chain by 2030, replacing a previous goal targeting a carbon reduction of 50% from a 2016 baseline. That supply chain goal comes on top of Novartis' own target for carbon neutrality across its operations by 2025.