The healthcare industry has a surprisingly high carbon footprint. Reducing or offsetting carbon emissions not only helps address climate change but has direct benefits on human health, improving outcomes and reducing costs.
The healthcare industry, particularly pharmaceuticals, have received little attention to their global carbon footprint as compared to other industries. Studies are beginning to highlight that the carbon footprint of the healthcare industry — and particularly the pharmaceutical sector — is a bigger problem than many realise. In fact, the industry accounts for as much as 10% of the U.S. carbon footprint and 5% globally, according to recent studies by the University of California San Francisco.
If the U.S. healthcare system were a separate country, its $3.3 trillion GDP would make it the fifth-largest economy in the world. It is also the world's seventh-largest producer of carbon dioxide with manufacturers directly emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from factories as a result of their production processes, and indirectly through electricity use.
Staggeringly, this means pharma companies emit more greenhouse gases than the automotive industry – in fact, drug manufactures create 13% more carbon emissions than car manufacturers despite having a market that is 28% smaller.
Importantly, by lowering emissions, health systems and related organizations may indeed contribute to better health. This might not only reduce the cost of care — one of the biggest woes in the U.S. health system — but also help fulfill climate change obligations.
Climate change impacts a wide-range of health outcomes. This slide illustrates the most significant climate change impacts (rising temperatures, more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and increasing carbon dioxide levels), their effect on exposures, and the subsequent health outcomes that can result from these changes in exposures.
(Source: US Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
The World Health Organization estimates that between 2030 and 2050 there will be an extra 250,000 health related deaths related to climate change a year. This creates a burning platform for the industry which must be addressed.
Here's how South Pole can help:
Measuring your carbon footprint
Many healthcare and pharmaceutical companies understand their impact on climate change and are working towards lowering their impact but there is a lot of room to improve. Information is power: by understanding your carbon footprint, you have data and metrics that allow businesses to make decisions on how best to lower your impact.
We have a team of in-house of experts who can collect your emissions data and measure the greenhouse gas footprint of your business or specific parts of your business.
Armed with this emission data you can use carbon offsets to lower these emissions partly or down to net zero.
South Pole has over 700 carbon offset projects available around the world. We can tailor a portfolio to the needs of your business and align them with your values, interests and budgets. These offsets are fully third-party verified to give you and your customers confidence that you are truly making an impact on climate. In addition to offsetting carbon, our projects have wider impacts on people and their communities such as giving access to clean water or helping with food security.
South Pole has years of experience working with businesses in reducing and offsetting carbon and energy in supply chains. A greener supply chain can be better for overall costs as well as helping in reducing the overall carbon footprint of your business, particularly for carbon intense sectors like pharmaceuticals.
By using insetting practices (reducing carbon emissions directly within an organization's sphere of influence) to help identify emissions at different stages of your supply chain we can bring your overall supply chain carbon emissions down.
Climate Neutral Labels give your business credibility by demonstrating your commitment to climate change. It is an important way to instantly show you are serious about your impact in a way that is really easy to understand and recognize.
South Pole's labels are best-in-class and closely aligned with international standards such as PAS 2060 - the leading international standard for carbon neutrality.
The case to address climate change is apparent and the mandate is critical. We also understand this is only one (very important!) component of achieving a more sustainable planet. The UN Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs) provide a global framework for organizations to measure and report their environmental and social impacts. We partner closely with companies to strategically align efforts with the 17 SDGs including how businesses perform against peers through an impact assessment.
Pharmaceutical companies have a long way to go to achieve greenhouse gas emissions targets established by the 2016 Paris Climate agreement. In fact, to reach 2025 targets, the overall sector would need to reduce its emissions intensity by about 59 percent from 2015 levels, according to Professor Lotfi Belkhir from McMaster University.
At South Pole, we understand the challenge, but we also see an incredible opportunity within the Pharma and Healthcare sectors. Visibility around your work on climate leadership provides powerful information to your stakeholders, investors and customers. Taking a lead in reducing its impact on climate will not only help the fight against climate change but is also a way for healthcare and pharma businesses to differentiate and stand out amongst competitors. It requires transparency, authenticity and visibility - but it offers businesses an opportunity to build and develop the most precious commodity - trust.