Managing our potential impact on biodiversity is part of our overall commitment to protecting the environment.
Biodiversity is the source of natural raw materials and ecosystem services which benefit mankind, such as maintaining air and water quality, crop pollination and regulation of the global climate.
In AstraZeneca, we recognise the need to conserve these vital resources. As we continue to grow our business and expand our geographic footprint, we are paying close attention to managing any impact our activities may have on biodiversity - principally by conserving habitats and species on sites that we own or lease, and by sourcing materials and services from suppliers who have similar environmental standards to our own.
Understanding the effects of our medicines on the natural world is also a long-standing commitment for AstraZeneca. We want to identify any potential adverse effects on the environment that our medicines might have so that we can responsibly balance these against the benefits that these medicines bring for patients. You can find out more in the Pharmaceuticals in the Environment section of this website.
Read about the issues presented by biodiversity loss, our approach to managing these challenges and our performance.
About the issue
Biodiversity constitutes the totality and variety of life on earth and is the source of the natural raw materials and ecosystem services on which society and businesses depend.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) signed by more than 150 world leaders in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 called for a halt to the global loss of biodiversity by 2010. However, this target has not been met and biodiversity losses continue, threatening the health of our planet and human wellbeing.
The United Nation’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment states that;
"Biodiversity is essential for ecosystem services and hence for human well-being. Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fibre, and fuel. This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth ... due to land use change, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation, and pollution.
Biodiversity will continue to be lost at extremely high rates over the next 50 years. Given inertia in the indirect drivers and in ecosystems, this loss cannot be halted over this time period. Nonetheless, opportunities exist to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services if society places an emphasis on ecosystem protection, restoration and management."
The United Nation’s review of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity estimated the economic implications of these trends to be in the region of US$ 2-4.4 trillion in 2008 (3.3-7.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP).
There are many ways in which businesses can help prevent the loss of biodiversity including the conservation of native flora and fauna as part of industrial real estate management, the environmental management of products and waste, and the sustainable sourcing of goods and services. For example the cultivation of plant and animal species for use as food, fuel and biochemical feedstocks needs to be balanced with the conservation of wild species that maintain the functioning of natural and healthy ecosystems.
Backed by our global safety, health and environment policy, we are developing best practice, including local Biodiversity Action Plans for conserving and enhancing biodiversity by protecting native habitats, creating and maintaining refuges for flora and fauna within our sites and preserving links with the surrounding environment via ‘green corridors’ of uninterrupted habitat.
In particular, we are working to make sure that biodiversity conservation is integrated into our site management and operation worldwide.
Alongside this, our work to improve our understanding of the fate and effect of pharmaceuticals in the environment may also help to protect biodiversity in the longer term.
Working with others
We also engage with other organisations on this issue - including activities co-ordinated by the International Chamber of Commerce to develop international biodiversity-related policy in order to aid sustainable business development.
Alongside this, we support a range of external initiatives, both local and global, which incorporate biodiversity conservation - such as The Prince’s Rainforest Project, The United Nations Global Compact and Millennium Development Goals.
We communicate openly about how we are managing our commitment to conserving biodiversity and follow the G3 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines concerning biodiversity to enhance the relevance and transparency of our reporting to stakeholders.
We also use recognised national and international conventions for identifying habitats and species and share monitoring data and reports with relevant stakeholders including conservation organisations.
Biodiversity action plans
Conservation on a global scale can only be achieved through local action – which is why we are putting local Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) in place for each of our major sites. These Plans underpin our drive to conserve and, where possible, enhance the biodiversity on and around the company’s properties worldwide.
In developing the Plans, we conduct surveys to identify the potential biodiversity importance of each of our priority sites. This helps us to target conservation measures in areas where they will be most beneficial – for example, sites with extensive undeveloped areas that support habitats and species of significant biodiversity importance.
The local BAPs will also help us to capture and share best practice from both within and outside the company relating to biodiversity management and conservation.
Overall, our BAPs aim to:
1. Help conserve biodiversity through appropriate actions taken at a local level to eliminate, reduce or mitigate potential impacts arising from activities or processes within our sites and facilities
2. Ensure the long-term sustainable operation of our sites and facilities by establishing a monitoring programme (as part of our Safety Health and Environment reporting process), which helps inform and review management priorities
3. Prioritise actions based on the geographic scale of facilities and business operations, their potential impact on biodiversity and the importance of this biodiversity from a local and international perspective.
We are using the BAPs initially to provide the platform for managing biodiversity conservation within AstraZeneca. However, as we continue to increase our outsourcing in line with our business strategy, we will plan to review with our supply partners how this approach might also work for them.
Support for a coordinated global effort
We believe that a coordinated effort is required on the part of communities, governments and businesses to conserve biodiversity worldwide.
We support the call by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for an international agreement on the issue of sovereign rights claimed by individual countries in terms of access to and benefit sharing from the use of genetic resources, including the biodiscovery of novel pharmaceuticals for combating disease.
As a corresponding member of the International Chamber of Commerce task force on the CBD, AstraZeneca is contributing to discussions that support the development of international policy to ensure access to and equitable sharing of benefits from genetic resources.