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Environment - our new approach

Protecting and restoring the planet’s health to protect and improve people’s health

Increasing scientific evidence demonstrates that climate change and nature loss are impacting the world and human health in many ways, including extreme heat contributing to deaths from diseases, increased spread of infectious diseases and air pollution exacerbating respiratory diseases.

The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change stated that “addressing climate change is the greatest public health opportunity for the century”.

As a science-based healthcare company, addressing our environmental impact is fundamental to our purpose, so that together with our partners, we can help protect and restore the planet’s health, in order to protect and improve people’s health.

In November 2020, we announced ambitious new environmental sustainability goals in both climate and nature, aiming to have a:

  • Net zero impact on climate by 2030

  • Net positive impact on nature by 2030

We have long been committed to reducing our environmental impact and we were one of the first pharmaceutical companies to set ambitious environment targets in 2010. Since then, across our operations, we have reduced carbon emissions by 34%, waste to landfill by 78% and total water use by 31% (2019 figures).

We’ve made great progress, but given the scale and urgency of the challenge, and the impact on health, we want to go further, faster.

Our new environmental sustainability goals

Find out more about our new environmental sustainability goals in climate and nature and how we will work to achieve them over the next decade.

Hear from our CEO on environmental sustainability

Our CEO, Emma Walmsley, talks about our new environmental sustainability goals in climate and nature. She explains why as a healthcare company it is important that we play our part in protecting and restoring the planet’s health to protect and improve people's health.

Delivering our new environmental sustainability goals

The new goals represent a significant new level of ambition and form part of our Trust priority and ESG approach, which support our aim to create long-term value for shareholders and meet the needs of society.  

Over the next decade, we will invest in measures to reduce our environmental impact and in restoration projects to balance the remaining impact that we cannot reduce and aim to put back into nature more than we take out.

In order to achieve these goals, we have set a number of specific targets across our direct operations, supply chains and portfolio. We intend to achieve most of these targets by 2030, but where we can accelerate timelines we have committed to an earlier date.

Meeting these new goals will require working across our value chain – from discovery to disposal - and we will work closely with our suppliers, customers, consumers, patients, and external experts, and we are grateful for their support.

Delivering these goals is not just important for planetary and human health, but also for our business. Regulatory approvals will increasingly require environmental impact assessments, we will improve our green credentials for tenders, make our supply chain more resilient, and we know that environmental sustainability is an issue that really matters to employees and external stakeholders.

 

Our new environmental sustainability targets

Climate action

Net zero impact on climate by 2030

Biopharma

  • Net zero emissions across all operations by 2030 (scope 1 and 2)
  • 100% renewable electricity by 2025 (scope 2)
  • Net zero emissions across our full value chain by 2030 (scope 3)

Consumer Healthcare

  • Net zero emissions across all operations by 2030 (scope 1 and 2)
  • 100% renewable electricity by 2025 (scope 2)
  • Net zero emissions for select brands/formats by 2030 (scope 3)

Nature action

Positive impact on nature by 2030

Biopharma

  • 100% sites to achieve good water stewardship by 2025 and reduce overall water use by 20% by 2030
  • Water neutral in operations and key suppliers in water stressed regions by 2030
  • Zero impact active pharmaceutical ingredient levels(1) for all sites and key suppliers by 2030
  • Zero operational waste, including eliminating single use plastics(2), by 2030
  • 25% environmental impact reduction for our products and packaging by 2030
  • 10% waste reduction from supply chain by 2030
  • Positive impact on biodiversity at all sites(3) by 2030
  • 100% materials sustainably sourced and deforestation free by 2030

Consumer Healthcare

  • 100% sites to achieve good water stewardship by 2025 and reduce overall water use by 20% by 2030
  • Reduce water use in high water stressed locations by 30% by 2030
  • 90% operational waste reused, recycled, downcycled or incinerated with heat recovery by 2030
  • 100% product packaging recyclable or reusable, including eliminating all problematic and unnecessary plastics, where quality and safety permits by 2025 (4)
  • 100% materials sustainably sourced and deforestation free by 2030

 

1 Below the predicted no-effect level 
2 Where regulatory obligations allow, and excluding plastics which are critical to product discovery and development and health & safety
3  GSK-owned sites 
4 Where quality and safety permit and subject to regulatory compliance​

The new goals apply principally to GSK’s Biopharma business and portfolio. Our Consumer Healthcare business will also contribute towards these goals through delivery of its own targets, whilst it is part of GSK.

We will report progress against these underlying targets and two goals on an annual basis, disclosed as part of our Annual Report and ESG reporting.

Delivering on our targets – climate and nature action working together

We will deliver our new environmental targets by taking action on priority impact areas and working with key external partners including suppliers and customers. Our climate and nature goals are interconnected and mutually reinforcing, and we will seek to strengthen those links and benefits wherever possible.

To achieve our net zero goal on climate we will reduce emissions as far as possible, as well as investing in nature-based carbon removal projects linked to biodiversity improvements, which serve to remove carbon and are also nature positive. Examples include tree planting to restore previously forested areas and restoration of mangroves in coastal areas, that store carbon and boost healthy ecosystems.

Progress on many of our nature targets will also reduce our carbon emissions, for example reducing the amount of product packaging will also reduce carbon emissions in manufacturing, logistics and transport.

Net zero impact on climate

The Science Based Targets Initiative has accredited that our new carbon targets align to a 1.5° pathway – in line with the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement. We have also joined RE100 and EV100 making a commitment to use 100% renewable electricity and transition 100% of our sales fleet to low emission vehicles.

Our climate strategy covers the full value chain of emissions reductions across our own operations, our supplier base and emissions from patient use of our products. This is in line with the Science Based Target Initiative carbon reduction pathway. Across our Biopharma and Consumer Healthcare businesses, the proportion of carbon we anticipate off-setting is less than 20% overall of total emissions.

Climate: How we contribute to limiting global warming caused by emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases

Operational emissions including renewable electricity (Scope 1 and 2)

To reduce operational carbon emissions, we will continue to accelerate our successful energy reduction programme. This includes doing on-site energy analysis to identify opportunities to drive efficiencies and save energy.

We have joined RE100 and have committed to using 100% renewable electricity by 2025. We will increase renewable electricity through on-site generation, offsite power purchase agreements and certificates, including significant new investment in wind and solar energy generation at our manufacturing sites in Scotland.

By signing up to RE100 we are committing to using electricity generated by renewable, clean sources and avoiding electricity generated by fossil fuel, which will not only reduce carbon emissions but also contribute to improving air quality and therefore respiratory health.

GSK will permanently change some of the ways that our people work together, following the enforced reductions in business travel as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. While we will continue to permit international business travel where necessary in future, we will also continue to promote virtual ways of working.

We have joined EV100 and will be transitioning our fleet of cars to electric or low emissions vehicles and we will increase the electric charging points we have at our sites. Increasing the use of electric vehicles reduces tailpipe emissions which not only reduces our carbon emissions but has a positive impact on human health through reducing air pollution.

We are collaborating with industry partners to investigate new clean technologies to replace use of natural gas for energy and heat production.

Value chain emissions (Scope 3)

A significant proportion of our carbon footprint is beyond our own operations - with our suppliers and in the patient and consumer use of our products. We will work across our full value chain to reduce carbon emissions, including building on our structured engagement programme with suppliers. 

Around a third of the emissions across our value chain are from the propellant used when patients use our Metred Dose Inhalers like Ventolin.  We need to tackle this, while balancing impact on patients. Where medically possible we will continue to encourage the transition to lower carbon inhalers such as our dry powder inhaler which have an almost zero carbon footprint. And we are actively developing lower-carbon alternatives for the propellants used in our Metered Dose Inhalers like Ventolin. We have co-funded a safety and toxicology study to test a lower green-house gas propellant.

One area that all consumer companies are finding challenging is the impact of the ‘consumer use’ phase. That means the things that are out of our control but still linked to our value chain e.g. whether a consumer turns the tap off when they are brushing their teeth. For our Consumer Healthcare business this consumer-use phase accounts for a significant proportion of emissions and this business has set a target for select brands/formats to have net zero emissions by 2030.  We are mapping the life cycle of our products to check where we can make improvements and to inform delivery of this target.

Net positive impact on nature

Measuring and accounting for how companies impact the natural world is an emerging field. We are collaborating with partners to understand how best to measure our nature impacts and meet industry standards, for example working with the World Business Council of Sustainable Development and the UN Environment Programme to contribute to the Science Based Targets Network for nature.

We will align to the Science Based Targets Network approach to measure our impact on nature and will seek to accredit our target when the methodology is finalised.

As thinking and standardisation matures in this field, we are open to the possibility of setting new targets to ensure we meet our goal of being net positive on nature by 2030.

Water: How we use water and impact water quality

Water stewardship and water neutrality in water stressed locations

Water is essential to developing and maintaining successful and healthy economies and for human health and wellbeing.

As a member of the Alliance for Water Stewardship we are committed to driving good water stewardship at all of our sites. This includes reducing the amount of water we use, improving water quality through minimising discharges and working with community and public sector stakeholders to address local water challenges.

In locations where we operate where water resources are scarce, we will go further than good water stewardship and commit to water neutrality. This means both onsite reductions and investing in community projects to support the sustainable use of water, for example rainwater harvesting, which captures water that would otherwise runoff in order to recharge local supplies.

Given the fundamental impact of water on healthcare, we will continue to build on our long legacy of including water and sanitation education and infrastructure initiatives in high water stress areas in connection with our Global Health work with NGO partners in vulnerable communities.

We are members of the UN Water Resilience Coalition to take collaborative action at scale to improve the availability, quality and accessibility of water resources in areas where water use is under stress.

Pharmaceuticals in the environment

Our Biopharma business is committed to zero impact active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) levels for all sites and key suppliers by 2030. This means ensuring any API emissions from manufacturing – including those that might contribute to Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) – are kept below levels that don’t negatively impact human health or the environment.

We carry out environmental testing on all our pharmaceuticals and use this data in risk assessments to evaluate potential for harm to human health or the environment. We use this data to set safe discharge targets for our manufacturing supply chain, and this new target means we are committed to keep all manufacturing API-related emissions below these safe discharge levels. For antibiotic emissions, these safe discharge targets are industry standards agreed through the AMR Industry Alliance.

We have recently joined the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), on the Prioritisation and Risk Evaluation of Medicines in the Environment (PREMIER). This involves working with multiple stakeholders to identify and agree safe levels of environmental risk for APIs, making environmental data on APIs more accessible to stakeholders and supporting greener manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.

Materials: How we manage the use of materials to minimise waste and increase circularity

Operational waste and single-use plastics

We will achieve zero operational waste through minimising the amount of waste we generate and diverting the material we do generate into circular cycles, for example reuse, recycling and composting.

Our commitment to operational waste includes eliminating single use plastics in our operations by 2030 (excluding those plastics which are critical to product discovery and development, health and safety, and meeting regulatory obligations)

Products and product packaging

The Biopharma business has committed to a 25% environmental impact reduction for product and packaging by 2030. We will achieve this through integrating environmental aspects into the product design process for all new products and selected established products, with the aim of improving the environmental performance of the product throughout its whole life cycle, for example by using recycled card in packaging or using e-leaflets for vaccines. We will remove PVC in all secondary packaging by end 2021.

The Biopharma business is working with suppliers to understand and map our waste in the supply chain. We can then baseline our supply chain waste impact and work with suppliers to develop action plans to achieve our target.

The Consumer Healthcare Business has committed 100% product packaging recyclable or reusable where quality and safety permits by 2025. We will start by implementing flagship projects to reduce our plastic packaging footprint, including moving to fully recyclable toothpaste tubes and mouthwash bottles.

GSK is a member of the Ellen McArthur Foundation to help develop our approach to circularity and to work with other members on collaborative projects for mutual benefit. 

Biodiversity: How we impact natural eco-systems

Mekong Delta, on a river

Sustainable and deforestation-free sourcing

We are committed to deforestation-free sourcing, as defined by the Accountability Framework (AFi), for all key commodities purchased by GSK or indirectly on our behalf. The complexity of our operations and our supply chain makes this an ambitious undertaking requiring a phased approach.

We have identified priority materials that are of strategic importance to our business, and that also have an impact on deforestation. These include paper packaging, palm oil derivatives, soy and cattle derived products.

To date, we have focused on developing sourcing standards for paper packaging based on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) requirements and palm oil derivatives based on principles set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). We have implemented responsible sourcing programs for these commodities in conjunction with the Rainforest Alliance. We are members of Action for Sustainable Derivatives (ASD) which works to increase the transparency and traceability of palm oil derivatives in supply chains.

We are committed to working with others to improve our approach to sustainable sourcing across all materials, including finding deforestation-free solutions, and will collaborate with other stakeholders in the supply chain, government, and civil society, as well as contributing to industry activities that focus on improving sustainable sourcing for the healthcare industry.

Biodiversity at GSK sites

Our Biopharma business has committed to positive biodiversity at GSK-owned sites by 2030, with all sites to have biodiversity action plans in place by 2025 and investment in programmes that improve habitats, protect species and improve soil or water quality. Specific site-based actions might include tree planting, adding bird boxes on site and pond maintenance.

Nature-based solutions

We will also invest in the protection and restoration of land-use across our operations and supply chain, in a way which also contributes to carbon removal and water basin restoration – and so helps us to achieve our climate and water targets.

Emma Walmsley GSK CEO
Emma Walmsley, CEO, GSK

“As a global healthcare company, we want to play our full part in protecting and restoring the planet’s health, in order to protect and improve people’s health. Improving the environmental sustainability of our business also makes us more resilient, protecting our operations, so we can deliver the products that patients and consumers rely on.”

Brian McNamara
Brian McNamara, CEO, GSK Consumer Healthcare

“Environmental sustainability is critical to Consumer Healthcare. It’s particularly important to our people, customers and consumers, which is why we will be taking bold steps for our business on climate and nature, like generating our own renewable power and using more recyclable and reusable product packaging. Post separation, the new Consumer Health company will be a world-leading business and our new targets reflect this, representing a significant new level of ambition to drive positive environmental change and help improve everyday health.” 

Photo of Regis Simard
Regis Simard President, Pharmaceuticals Supply Chain, GSK

“GSK has a strong track record in environmental sustainability, and we are delighted to be setting these new targets which represent a significant new level of ambition. We know that we cannot deliver these goals by ourselves and look forward to working across our value chain ‘from discovery to disposal’, including mobilising our manufacturing supply chain to deliver real reductions in carbon, water and materials use.”