GSK pledges renewed environmental commitment with aggressive climate change and nature targets

GSK re-ups its commitment to the earth with a new plan to eliminate environmental impact and bump up its contribution to nature by the end of the decade. (Pixabay)

GlaxoSmithKline is committing to a new environmental plan with two ambitions: eliminate its impact on climate change and neutralize its impact on nature by 2030.

In environmental parlance, the goal is a net zero impact on climate change and a net positive impact on nature by the end of the decade.

The twofold approach means GSK will reduce its environmental footprint as much as possible—and where it can’t reduce, implement restoration programs—while also contributing more to nature than it takes out.

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GSK’s announcement comes on the heels of substantial environmental pledges by other pharma companies this year, including those from Biogen, Novartis, AstraZeneca and Novo Nordisk. Motivated by the environment's impact on public health, pharma companies increasingly see their own roles and responsibility in making changes.

“As a global healthcare company, we want to play our full part in protecting and restoring the planet’s health in order to protect and improve people’s health,” GSK’s CEO Emma Walmsley said in a video announcing the change.

Specific targets include moving completely to renewable electricity at all GSK sites and the use of electric vehicles by GSK sales reps worldwide. GSK also plans for all the materials it uses to be “sustainably sourced and deforestation-free.”

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GSK has been working on reducing the company’s environmental impact since 2010, calling itself one of the first pharma companies to do so. Since then, it has reduced carbon emissions by 34%, cut total water use by 31% and slashed the waste it sends to landfills by 78%.

Other pharma company goals include similar carbon reduction pledges, such as AstraZeneca’s $1 billion promise to get to zero emissions by 2025 and Novartis’ commitment to carbon neutrality by 2030. Biogen will spend $250 million to cut all fossil fuel use across its operations by 2040.

These pharmas' efforts also relate back to human health. Biogen, for instance, referenced a report to FiercePharma last month that showed air pollution is “one of the 12 modifiable factors contributing to dementia.”