Environmental protection

Environmental protection is about operating our business in a manner that respects and protects our climate and natural resources.

As we push the boundaries of science and develop new medicines, we must conserve natural resources and ensure our products are environmentally safe at all stages in their life cycle. We strive to manage our environmental impacts across the entire value chain from research, development and production through patient use and final disposal.


Carbon footprint reduction since 2015


reduction in water consumption since 2015


increase in waste generated since 2015

What we're doing

In 2016, we embarked on a new strategy that sets ambitious commitments up until 2025. We committed around $25 million to natural resource projects to reduce our impacts across our sites in 2016.

Responding to climate change

Climate change poses an increasing risk for our business. Its potential impacts on human health are far reaching. The impacts on water and other natural resources make it all the more important we use resources wisely and make the switch to renewable energy, while reducing emissions across our operations and engaging with our supply chain to ensure our suppliers do their fair share.

We are planning work to better understand the full range of regulatory, physical and financial risks and opportunities posed by climate change across our own sites and our supply chain throughout 2017 so we can begin developing an adaptation strategy. We estimate that the most immediate risk to our operations from a changing climate is the availability of water. In 2016, we identified our sites with the greatest exposure to water scarcity where we will prioritise water efficiency projects to reduce our exposure to water risks.

In 2016, we were listed on the Climate A List by CDP, the international not-for-profit organisation that drives sustainable economies.

Setting future targets

In 2016, we adopted a new strategy that will take us up to 2025. In setting our new carbon goals, we publicly committed to follow the Science-Based Targets methodology developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Our carbon targets for our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions have now been verified against what the science says is our fair share of limiting warming due to climate change.

Our commitments for 2025 include:

  • Carbon: limit our extended operational footprint to 2015 levels
  • Waste: work towards a 10% absolute reduction against a 2015 baseline
  • Water: maintain usage at 2015 levels as our business grows
  • Resource efficiency: 90% of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) syntheses to meet resource efficiency targets at launch
  • Ensure effective environmental management of our products from pre-launch through to product end-of-life.

For full details of our new commitments, see our Environmental sustainability update 2016.

Our Science-Based Target:

AstraZeneca commits to reduce absolute scope 1 emissions by 20% and scope 2 emissions by 95% by 2025 against the 2015 baseline, and reduce all scope 3 emissions by 25% per million USD of sales in the same timeframe.

To support the achievement of the Scope 3 intensity target the company set the following sub-goals:

1)     Reduce GHG emissions from waste incineration, business air travel, primary distribution (freight & logistics) and first tier active pharmaceutical ingredients and formulation (API) & formulation and packaging suppliers (>90% of category spend, energy only) by 20% by 2025 from a 2015 base year

2)     Reduce GHG emissions per device from patient use of inhaler therapy devices over the same time period

3)     Improve primary data collection within Scope 3 value chain greenhouse gas accounting by 2020.

These commitments will limit our 2025 extended operational footprint to 2015 levels. Please refer to our Environmental sustainability update 2016 for details of what our operational footprint includes.

Using water responsibly

Forty per cent of the world’s population currently lives in water-stressed river basins and an estimated 663 million people still lack improved drinking water sources. We recognise the need to ensure water sources are used responsibly and equitably, as a shared public resource. We invest in technology and optimise our processes to reduce water consumption across our operations while ensuring the water we do use is treated to the highest standards before it is returned to the environment.

In 2016, we made it on to the CDP’s Water A List. CDP’s water score is an indicator of a company’s commitment to transparency around its environmental risks and a demonstration of pursuing best practice. As a member of the A List, AstraZeneca has been recognised amongst the leading 25 companies in the world for water stewardship.

Managing waste effectively

Waste management is key to our environmental protection strategy and waste prevention is our primary goal. It contributes to improving efficiency and reducing our reliance on natural resources. As our production levels continue to grow over the next 10 years, achieving our 10% reduction target is going to be a significant challenge. Finding ways to break the linkage between business growth and waste generation and is a key focus area.

To reduce the amount of waste we produce, we look for opportunities to improve efficiency during our production processes, integrate waste-minimisation considerations into purchasing decisions, and engage our employees to reduce waste. While waste prevention is our top priority, we also seek to maximise treatment by material recycling and avoiding landfill disposal when prevention is impractical. 

Protecting biodiversity

Although our land holdings are relatively small, we manage our sites to support sustainable ecosystems and encourage wildlife for the benefit of our employees and local communities. We actively support the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity and we continue to apply best practice, actively managing biodiversity on our sites through local biodiversity action plans. These plans set out locally specific actions to conserve and enhance native habitats, create and maintain refuges for flora and fauna, and preserve links with the surrounding environment via green corridors of uninterrupted habitat.

We have assessed our potential local biodiversity impacts at all of our major sites. As a result, 25 sites are implementing bespoke biodiversity action plans, including all major fully operating sites over five hectares. In 2016, we joined the Wildlife Habitat Council to provide independent evaluation and accreditation of our site biodiversity action plans.

AstraZeneca is a signatory of the Nagoya Protocol, an international agreement to protect the benefits enjoyed by the country of origin of natural biological resources used in research.

Ensuring environmental compliance

Our many business operations are subject to a wide range of laws, rules and regulations relating to environmental protection. Failure to comply with these could adversely affect our license to operate, damage our reputation, cause harm to people or the environment, and lead to fines or other penalties. It could also lead to interruption of production that may negatively impact on patient access, so ensuring we comply with the relevant regulations wherever we operate is a top priority.

Ensuring the environmental safety of our products

Pharmaceuticals enter the environment and trace levels are measured in rivers, lakes, soils and occasionally drinking water. Societal concerns about pharmaceuticals in the environment (PIE) are likely to continue as patient access to medicines and population levels increase, resulting in a greater environmental burden. As a responsible innovator, we need to understand the environmental risks of our products in order to proactively manage them and we are committed to providing scientific leadership on PIE.

Concerns over the impacts of PIE have been recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organisation within its Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, where Environmentally Persistent Pharmaceutical Pollutants has been included as an emerging policy issue. We aim to lead our industry in understanding and mitigating the effects of PIE. As a minimum, we are committed to ensuring effective environmental management of our products from pre-launch through to product end-of-life.

Environmental risk data relating to our medicines

An overview of the environmental risk of AstraZeneca’s medicines. This information will be updated, if appropriate, as new data becomes available.