Major healthcare players, including AstraZeneca, GSK, Novo Nordisk, and Roche, have banded together in talks with China and India to scale renewable energy across their supply chains.
The companies are part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative Health Systems Task Force, a public-private partnership launched at COP26. The markets in China and India are key for the pharmaceutical industry, accounting for up to 50% of materials for medicines.
The agreements between China and the task force would unlock renewable energy in Jiangsu, Guangdong, Shanghai, and Beijing and add around 70 megawatts of renewable power annually to the power grid beginning in 2024. The renewable energy created will generate emissions savings of approximately 120,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.
The efforts in India will support suppliers in Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.
“The world has finally woken up to the reality that the climate crisis is also a health crisis,” Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca and chair of the Sustainable Markets Initiative Health Systems Task Force, said in a statement. “With this (realization) must follow bold, scalable action if we are to secure a liveable and sustainable future. Today’s announcement sends a positive demand signal for green power, providing a blueprint for others to follow, and underlines the SMI’s commitment to leading the [decarbonization] of the healthcare sector.”
Healthcare’s Global Carbon Impact
The initiatives in China and India come as climate change has been recognized as having a significant impact on public health. Roughly seven million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution alone, according to the World Health Organization.
The healthcare sector, which accounts for approximately 5% of total greenhouse gas emissions — up to twice the global emissions of the aviation industry — is making efforts to decarbonize and find more sustainable pathways. Bausch + Lomb, an eye health product company and one of the world’s largest suppliers of contact lenses, announced earlier this month that it has made progress on an eye care recycling program, while GE Healthcare and ReLink Medical have reduced medical device waste for healthcare providers through selling, recycling or donating equipment that is no longer needed.
More than half of emissions from the healthcare industry stem from the manufacturing supply chain, with energy consumed in these supply chains accounting for around 25% of total healthcare emissions. Decarbonizing the healthcare supply chain will likely have one of the biggest impacts in reducing the sector’s overall carbon footprint.