Material resource efficiency

As we continue to manage our environmental impact, we are working actively to use resources as efficiently as possible. We believe that we have a responsibility to reduce material use and subsequent waste generation. In addition, where waste is unavoidable, our goal is to treat and dispose of those wastes with minimum environmental impact.

In the Climate change and Water sections, you can read more about our efforts to manage our energy and water resources.

Our material resource use and waste generation is primarily driven by manufacture of our products. Given our increasing strategic externalisation, we also report on the environmental impacts of Outsourced manufacture.

This section provides more detail about the issue of improving material resource efficiency, our approach to managing this, and our performance to date.

About the issue

Research shows that if people around the world all lived European lifestyles it would take the resources of two and a half planets to support them and that if current patterns of consumption continue, it is estimated that global resource use would quadruple within 20 years.

Most environmental impacts can be attributed to products and services produced and consumed. The greatest pressures now come from the impacts of homes, household goods, food and travel but AstraZeneca is conscious of the contribution from healthcare of which provision of medicines is one part.

For AstraZeneca, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) is about reducing environmental impacts, while maintaining delivery of medicines that make a meaningful difference to patients. By using resources such as raw materials, water and energy more efficiently we can deliver enhanced business value in a sustainable way.

The UN Marrakech Process has further information on the ongoing process to build a global framework for action on sustainable consumption and production.

Our approach

Managing the resources we use and the waste we produce is a key feature of our environmental strategy.

Alongside the work we do to reduce our carbon footprint and to advance understanding of the impact of pharmaceuticals in the environment, we continue to refine and enhance our processes for managing waste. This often brings associated benefits for our business as we improve our production techniques and adopt more efficient processes.

We characterize our waste as either ‘hazardous waste’ (e.g. chemical waste) or ‘other waste’ (e.g. trash / rubbish) according to national legislation which varies in its definition from country to country. The majority of our hazardous waste consists of solvent and aqueous streams from manufacturing activities. Other waste includes general waste from our facilities around the world.

Our primary focus is waste prevention. Where this is not practical, we concentrate on waste minimisation and appropriate treatment or disposal to maximise the reuse and recycling of materials and minimise disposal to landfill. We use the commonly accepted waste hierarchy to guide our choices.

Programmes designed to reduce the amount of waste we generate include the continual improvement of existing production processes, minimising the environmental burden of new production processes under development, integration of environmental considerations in purchasing and internal waste awareness programmes.

Third parties manufacture selected key intermediates and products on our behalf. The contribution of waste data from this outsourced manufacturing is not included in our performance data, but we continue to track and report third party waste production in the Outsourced manufacture section.

Objectives and targets

Our objectives and targets are ambitious, reflecting our determination to drive continuous improvement in line with our long term commitment to delivering business success responsibly. In the area of material resource efficiency the targets are wider than simple waste reduction although we want to deliver a further 15% reduction in our waste footprint indexed appropriately. In addition to this and to demonstrate our commitment, we have introduced targets to drive adoption of waste disposal options with least environmental impact. Our targets in the waste area are:

  • To reduce hazardous waste amount (indexed to sales) by 15%
  • To decrease non-hazardous waste amount (indexed to number of employees) by 15%
  • To increase proportion of waste sent for material recycling/recovery/reuse from 40% to 50% 
  • To decrease proportion of non-hazardous waste sent for landfill from 26% to less than 10%

All of these targets are to be met by the end of 2015 and are measured from a 2010 baseline.
In addition we have adopted a target to reduce material use in manufacturing processes that will contribute to our long term resource efficiency performance. You can read more about this target in the Product environmental improvement section.


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. We follow the G3 Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to enhance the relevance and transparency of our reporting to our stakeholders.

Our performance

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

What's next in this section

Outsourced manufacture

We recognise the importance of working with suppliers to ensure they have ethical standards consistent with our own.

Read more


We recognise the need to use water responsibly and where possible to minimise the use of water in our facilities.

Read more

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: