Pursuing a science-based sustainability strategy


19 January 2022

The last 12 months have seen a significant increase in corporate net zero commitments. According to international research initiative the Net Zero Tracker, one in three of the largest public companies in G20 countries now has a net zero target, up from one in five last year. This is to be welcomed: the science tells us we are already at a critical point in 2021 and it is time for everyone to increase our efforts to limit the impacts of the climate crisis on our planet. The Glasgow Climate Pact achieved at COP26 will be a crucial way through which action must be delivered.

As a science-based company, we are committed to a sustainability approach that follows the science. We believe in the need for action and delivery, both in the short and long-term, to improve public and planetary health.

In October 2021, our net zero targets were verified by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), in alignment with their new Net Zero Standard. This is the world’s first science-based certification of companies’ net zero targets in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping planetary warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. We are proud to be among the first  seven companies globally to have our targets verified, and encourage others to adopt this approach.

At COP26, our Chairman, Leif Johansson, discussed the importance of science-based targets alongside global leaders including the UN Secretary General António Guterres, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact Sanda Ojiambo, as well as senior leaders from Greenpeace and the SBTi at the UN Global Compact Caring for Climate high-level meeting. 

Having our climate targets verified by the Science Based Targets initiative, an independent and respected body, is an important part of our move to net zero. The best way to drive progress is with a structured and clear roadmap that the SBTi provides… And we’re starting to see a great shift across industry, with not only pledges for decades in the future, but measuring the effects of our work over the next one, two and three years.

Leif Johansson AstraZeneca Chairman

We are already delivering meaningful action to cut our global carbon footprint. Between 2015 and 2020, we reduced our Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 60%. In 2020, more than 99% of our purchased electricity came from renewable sources. We’re also putting nature-based solutions at the heart of our strategy: through our AZ Forest programme, we’re planting over 50 million trees by 2025 and ensuring their longer-term survival.

Our leadership in sustainability has been widely recognised. We have been CDP AA rated for Climate and Water for six years in succession, and ranked amongst the top 100 most sustainable corporations in the world by Corporate Knights for five years in a row. The Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), the longest standing, global sustainability benchmark system, has highlighted our position as one of the most sustainable pharmaceutical companies, based on an in-depth analysis of our economic, social and environmental performance. This is in addition to previous recognition of our progress, including by Bloomberg and the Financial Times Climate Leaders listing.  

The continued contribution of AstraZeneca employees enables us to deliver on our Sustainability ambition and targets. I’m proud of where we are today and know that we’ll continue to raise the bar even higher in the future.

Katarina Ageborg AstraZeneca Executive Vice-President, Sustainability & Chief Compliance Officer

A systems-level approach is needed to deliver better healthcare and outcomes with a lower environmental footprint.  We recognise that working in partnership is critical to achieving this, which is why we are a founding member of both HRH The Prince of Wales Sustainable Markets Initiative, where Pascal Soriot our Chief Executive Officer is championing the newly launched Health Systems Taskforce, as well as the UNFCCC Race to Zero campaign. The commitment by 50 countries at the World Health Organization-led COP26 Health Programme to develop ‘climate smart’ healthcare is another strong example of the power of collaboration. This programme highlighted the importance of healthcare resilience, where we have been leading the way through the establishment of the Partnership for Health System Sustainability and Resilience with the World Economic Forum and London School of Economics, now active in over 20 countries.

Another example of collaboration is the first-of-its-kind partnership we announced at COP26 together with industry peers and Schneider Electric to help our suppliers access renewable energy. The Energize programme will support the decarbonisation of healthcare across the industry by harnessing our collective buying power to help suppliers switch to renewable energy.

Reducing global emissions is not something that anyone can do alone. We know we need to work together on practical solutions now, and this is why AstraZeneca joined this unique collaboration of ten of the largest pharmaceutical companies to encourage and support our suppliers to access more renewable energy. This mechanism will reduce greenhouse emissions within the supply chain and, we hope, might inspire others to adopt a similar approach.

Pam Cheng AstraZeneca Executive Vice-President, Global Operations and IT

Through our science-driven sustainability strategy and delivery, we are walking the talk. By integrating sustainability into everything that we do, from lab to patient, we are helping to ensure we can continue to deliver life-changing medicines to people around the world, as well as improving ecological and community resilience.


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