Climate change

We believe that our primary responsibility is to reduce our carbon footprint by, amongst other things, improving our energy efficiency and pursuing lower-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels. The use of carbon offset or other third party reduction credits to address residual emissions is not something we favour as an alternative to driving our own efforts to reduce emissions.

Our carbon footprint is also affected by some of our respiratory therapies, specifically our pressurised metered dose inhalers that rely on propellants such as hydrofluoroalkanes (HFAs) to deliver the medicine to a patient’s airways. Whilst HFAs have no ozone depletion potential and a third or less of the global warming potential than the CFCs they replace, they are still greenhouse gases - but we believe that the potential benefits that these therapies offer patients outweigh the potential impact on the environment.

As we continue to work to manage our environmental impact, we are also participating in the global debate on what business can do to help mitigate global warming and adapt to the unavoidable consequences of climate change. We recognise that climate change is not just an environmental challenge, but also one that affects the health and livelihood of millions of people because of the links to complex issues such as poverty, economic development and population growth. We believe that the most effective response to the challenges associated with climate change can only be achieved through a united global effort that takes account of the wider context of sustainable development. This includes aspects such as material efficiency; reducing travel and transport; supply chain accountability; availability of safe, clean water; healthcare innovation; and infrastructure improvement.

Our business is fighting disease and some of our work relates to the emerging health needs. For example, our focus on further developing our respiratory therapy product portfolio for the effective treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and our collaborations with non-governmental organisations and other partners to help vulnerable communities in the developing world to strengthen their local healthcare capabilities.

This section provides more detail about the issues presented by climate change, our approach to managing these and our performance to date.

About the issue

AstraZeneca recognises the role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in leading world understanding of climate change science and impact assessment, and we accept their conclusions. The IPCC has concluded that natural systems around the world are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases that are very likely to be the result of emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity.

Research shows that the climate system has undergone abrupt fluctuations in the distant past with resultant ecological changes and extinctions. The current warming trend is also predicted to cause extinctions among numerous plant and animal species, already weakened by other factors such as loss of habitat and pollution, and humans are also likely to face mounting challenges. Recent severe storms, flooding, heat waves, and droughts give a glimpse of what may be the consequences if computer models predicting more frequent extreme weather events are accurate. The related impacts are expected to reduce water availability, increase damage to crops, and increase potential for disease.

Some of the predicted impacts of climate change are of specific relevance to AstraZeneca and the pharmaceutical industry. The relationship between climate change and health is extremely complex and both the direct and indirect impacts on peoples’ health are still subject to much academic research. Alongside medical and societal challenges posed by increasing life expectancy, population growth and diseases for which there are currently no adequate treatments, climate change may also impact disease patterns and healthcare needs.

Our approach

In common with most businesses, our greenhouse gas emissions arise from the energy we use at our facilities; from other in-house activities; from the various means of transport we use; and, indirectly, from the activities of our suppliers. We focus primarily on reducing this total carbon footprint.

Like other pharmaceutical companies, our carbon footprint is also affected by some of our respiratory therapies, and specifically our pressurised metered dose inhaler (pMDI) products. pMDIs rely on propellants, such as hydrofluoroalkanes (HFAs), to deliver the medicine to a patient’s airways. While HFAs have no ozone depletion potential and a third or less of the global warming potential of the CFCs they replace, they are still greenhouse gases. A large majority of our respiratory products use Turbuhaler, a dry powder inhaler technology that does not use propellants and is available in most markets. We will continue to provide the expanded treatment choices, including pMDIs, to patients and their clinicians, as long as there is a medical need and no alternatives to HFA propellant gases are available that are safer for patients and the environment.

Objectives and targets

We have climate change-related targets that guide our activity worldwide, framed in our Responsible Business Plan and related strategy for safety, health and environment. Progress is reviewed throughout the year, including at the Senior Executive Team (SET) and Board levels.

Our 2011 to 2015 objectives for climate change are ambitious, reflecting our determination to continue to drive improvement in line with our long term commitment to delivering business success responsibly. We have set a target to deliver a 20% reduction in our operational greenhouse gas footprint (excluding emissions from patient use of our inhaler therapies). To ensure we stay focused on the right activities, we have also set targets for improving the energy efficiency of our assets by 30%, raising by 50% the contribution that renewable sources make to our overall energy mix and improving the fuel efficiency of our world-wide sales & marketing vehicle fleet by 20%. All of these targets are to be delivered by 2015 and are measured from a 2010 baseline.

We have formed a Global Energy, CO₂and Water Steering Committee and two regional teams (EU and North America) to help steer the business towards its 30% energy efficiency improvement target and our commitment to improve the contribution low-carbon energy makes to our overall energy mix.

Support for a co-ordinated global effort

We believe that the most effective response to the challenges associated with climate change can only be achieved through a concerted global effort. The world community should unite through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to pursue an appropriate and comprehensive response effort to address two key and interconnected challenges: mitigating global warming and adapting our societies to some inevitable changes.
This must:

  • Provide an effective framework to encourage industry to participate in the invention, development and use of low-carbon and adaptive solutions through, for example, appropriate and coherent financial, tax and trade policies. This should include use of market-based mechanisms that help internalise the true cost of carbon and that promote the development and use of low carbon technologies and long-term solutions.
  • Use the time afforded by the extension of the Kyoto Protocol to 2020, adopted at the Doha Climate Conference, to negotiate a new, inclusive global climate pact by 2015.
  • Engage all parties to the Convention, both developed and developing, in securing a legally binding framework for long-term cooperative action against climate change, recognising the differentiated roles, needs and capabilities of different world regions and embracing various regional and national efforts such as the Asia Pacific Partnership, G8 and EU climate programmes.
  • Embrace the need for: 1) secure, affordable and sustainable energy supplies to advance social and economic goals; and 2) improved access to safe water and sanitation in furthering health and wellbeing; which are consistent with the UN Millennium Development Goals.
    We are using this thinking to inform our own strategies and will remain actively engaged in the global debate on the part that business can play in such a response.


We are committed to transparency and constructive engagement on this topic. As part of this, we make detailed reports available through our Annual Report and this Responsibility section of our website, through disclosure to the Carbon Disclosure Project and in other formats. We use the WRI/WBCSD “Greenhouse Gas Protocol” to build our emissions inventory and follow the G3 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to enhance the relevance and transparency of our reporting to our stakeholders.

In 2013, The CDP gave us a Carbon Disclosure Index score of 85% (73% in 2012) and a Carbon Performance Rating of B (on a scale A-F). AZ ranked 2nd in the Pharma sector (14th out of 300 across all sectors) in the EIO Europe 300 Carbon Ranking in 2013. In the 2012 release from Climate Counts, our score of 77 ranks us 2nd out of 13 in Pharma sector (behind Johnson & Johnson) and 32nd out of 145 across all 16 sectors analysed.

In 2013, we have contributed to UK DEFRA consultations on guidance for companies due to make mandatory greenhouse gas reports and to update their voluntary guidance on reporting environmental key performance indicators. We have also contributed to the work of the GHG Protocol Power Sector Working Group, which is attempting to clarify reporting guidance for emissions from electricity generation and use and to the work of the Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Steering Group hosted by the National Health Service (NHS England) to understand the role of the industry in the context of the carbon footprint of healthcare provision. We believe that these initiatives will bring greater transparency and comparability to corporate reports, will facilitate further improvements in the availability, quality and usability of those reports and, over time, provide a robust platform of information to gauge business response to the challenges of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Our performance

Click here for the latest information about our performance in this area.

What's next in this section


Managing our potential impact on biodiversity is part of our overall commitment to protecting the environment.

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Our performance: environment

Read details of our 2013 performance.

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Did you know?

We have a global Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) function dedicated to leading, managing and monitoring our commitment to managing our environmental impact and to promoting the safety, health and wellbeing of our employees. Read more about: