Carbon

We are working to reduce emissions from our entire value chain while extending access to our products for the people who need them.

value chain approach
Infographic, Understanding our 2015 value chin carbon footprint

Value chain carbon footprint

Download our detailed value chain carbon footprint PDF

Raw materials

Working with suppliers

We know that the impact of producing our products and medicines is much broader than what we do in our own operations. Working with our suppliers to help them reduce their carbon emissions is critical to achieving our carbon goals.  In fact, around 50% of our carbon footprint comes from our supply chain. We view suppliers as critical partners in achieving our sustainability goals, and effective collaboration is central to that success. That is why we are working closely with them to help look at ways we can reduce our collective environmental impact.

By taking a value-chain approach, we are identifying risks and opportunities right across our entire supplier network – from our supply chain operations to our procurement activity. For example, for every tonne of palm oil we buy to manufacture Horlicks in UK, an equivalent mass of sustainable palm oil is produced.

We use Ecodesk, an online platform, to gather data on carbon, water and waste from around 200 suppliers representing approximately £1 billion - more than half - of our annual spend on raw materials used in manufacturing and R&D.  

More than 350 of our suppliers are now using our online Supplier Exchange Platform to share best practice, and in 2015, we worked directly with five suppliers to identify ways to reduce their carbon emissions from energy. The platform is a private online forum, where our suppliers are collaborating with each other and GSK to share practical ideas about improving resource usage, save water and increase energy efficiency. Suppliers use this insight to make improvements in their operations. In 2015, the Exchange won an award for Best Supplier Engagement at the Ethical Corporation Responsible Business Awards. If you are a supplier to GSK and would like to share your own calculated product footprints, or would like to know more about how you can participate in GSK’s carbon footprint exercises, please contact GSK’s Environmental Sustainability team.

Using sustainability data to inform decisions 

We ask our suppliers to report their energy, water and waste data using Ecodesk*. We are using this data to prioritise our efforts to reduce suppliers’ environmental impacts – for example GSK has held energy reduction events with a number of our suppliers at their own sites. If you are a supplier to GSK and would like to disclose your information on Ecodesk you can find more information via the GSK Supplier Exchange.

Supplier recognition

Since 2014, we have recognised our suppliers’ achievements in reducing environmental impacts through the GSK Supplier Environmental Sustainability Award. In 2016, we introduced two awards: one for multinationals and one for small or medium sized (SME) companies. The winners collect a trophy and £1,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.

In 2016, our multinational winner, The Dow Chemical Company, was the first company in the USA to power their manufacturing sites entirely from renewable energy, with a combined 350 megawatts of wind power.

Aitken Spence Printing won our 2016 SME award in recognition of its efforts to become carbon neutral. The Sri Lankan printing company took a holistic approach to reducing their carbon emissions by making significant investments in efficient technology and processes. 

Previously, packaging supplier Albéa, which manufactures toothpaste tubes for GSK, won the 2014 award for its outstanding energy efficiency programme. In 2015, flavourings supplier Firmenich was recognised for its exceptional sustainability strategy.

These awards offer us a great opportunity to share ideas and initiatives that can help create a more sustainable GSK. We also work with our suppliers through our online Supplier Exchange Platform and Ecodesk which shares best practice to reduce environmental impacts.

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Operations

Reducing energy use, and the carbon emissions associated with the energy that we purchase, is an important focus of our programme to cut environmental impacts. We are investing to generate renewable energy, and use waste as fuel for energy.  For example, the wind turbine installed at our site in Cork, Ireland, is now generating around 30% of the site’s electricity, delivering savings of 4,100 tonnes of CO2.

Antibiotics  

We are changing the way we make antibiotics - looking for ways to save energy improve yields and reduce costs while maintaining the efficacy of the drug. In 2015, we achieved a 15% reduction in our antibiotics carbon footprint per pack compared to 2010, while increasing production volumes by 40%.  

Metered-dose inhalers 

We have changed the way we manufacture metered-dose inhalers. At our sites in Spain and France we have reduced the amount of propellant used to purge air from three inhaler brands by 75%. This has reduced GHG emissions associated with this process by around 40,000 tonnes of CO2E per year. 

Abacavir used to treat HIV 

We have changed the process to manufacture the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient, Abacavir, used to treat HIV.  This reduced the product's carbon footprint by 7%.  

Green chemistry 

We apply the principles of green chemistry when producing many of our medicines to help us reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals from the drug development and discovery process. See our position statement on Hazardous Chemicals Management for more information. Our Green Chemistry Performance Unit (CPU), established in 2012, researches ways to replace hazardous or unsustainable chemicals with lower-impact alternatives. We have also published a specialist guide that helps our scientists understand the environmental impact of different reagents - chemicals used to produce our medicines - and to encourage the use of lower-impact alternatives.

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Logistics

We are looking to make efficiencies in the transportation of our products in air, road and sea.

We are partnering with our logistics providers to reduce emissions from the transportation of our products, which account for around 4% of our carbon footprint. For example, we have encouraged our suppliers to invest in specialised trailers that can support storage at two different temperatures so products requiring different levels of refrigeration can be transported together. This has enabled us to take more than 1,500 vehicles off the road and cut carbon emissions by 1000 tonnes CO2e per year. We are also using a route planning tool that enables our vehicles to reduce journey times, making each trip more efficient, further reducing carbon emissions.

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Product use

Like so many companies across so many sectors, the most challenging area of our carbon footprint is in usage - whether by consumer or patient.

Use of our products 

We have been working with the Carbon Trust since 2011 to measure the carbon footprints of our 40 biggest selling products to identify where we can make the most effective reductions from emissions associated with our products.   

Metered dose inhalers 

People using our metered dose inhalers accounts for 25% of carbon emissions. In 2014 the Carbon Trust certified the carbon footprints of three of our respiratory products according to the Greenhouse Gas Accounting Sector Guidance for Pharmaceutical Products and Medical Devices. This enables us to understand the carbon footprint reduction benefits of our newer dry powder inhalers, versus our older inhalers. We have shared these product footprints with the UK NHS and the National Formulary in Denmark. 

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Disposal

We are keen to increase recycling of our products and to support the driving of positive behaviour change among patients and consumers. Read more...

A pile of inhalers to be recycled
Inhalers for recycling

The biggest carbon impact from customer disposal of our products comes from inhalers because there is often a small amount of propellant (greenhouse gases) left in them after use. Since 2012, we have encouraged UK patients to return more than 500,000 used inhalers to pharmacies where they are sent back to us to be recycled through our Complete the Cycle scheme.

We are also working with healthcare trusts across the UK to combine health and environmental messages through projects like 'Don't waste a breath' in the Grampian region and 'Breathe better, waste less' in Brighton, which support patients to get the most out of their inhalers - reducing the need for emergency care and cutting waste.

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