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AstraZeneca launches $1bn strategy to be zero carbon by 2025 - and it will plant an AZ Forest with 50 million trees

AstraZeneca has launched an ambitious $1billion programme to reduce its climate impact to zero - and it will plant an AZ Forest with 50 million trees.

The company, which is building its global headquarters and R&D centre in Cambridge, aims for zero emissions from its own operations by 2025 and says it will ensure its entire value chain is carbon negative by 2030.

Concept drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus - view from Robinson Way. (27527348)
Concept drawing of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus - view from Robinson Way. (27527348)

The biopharmaceutical company’s Ambition Zero Carbon strategy, which brings forward its decarbonisation plans by more than a decade, were unveiled at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

AstraZeneca said it would launch next-generation respiratory inhalers with near-zero global warming potential (GWP) propellants, double its energy productivity and use 100 per cent renewable energy for power and heat. It will also switch to a full electric vehicle fleet five years ahead of schedule.

Chief executive Pascal Soriot said: “Climate change is an urgent threat to public health, the environment and the sustainability of the global economy. Since 2015, we have reduced our carbon emissions from operations by almost a third and our water consumption by almost one fifth.

“But now is the time to act even faster and redouble our efforts. The commitments AstraZeneca has made today as part of our ‘Ambition Zero Carbon’ strategy will enable us to speed up the reduction of our company’s impact on climate and inspire collaboration at a global level to effect policy change.”

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot. Picture: Keith Heppell
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot. Picture: Keith Heppell

The company aims to reach zero carbon emissions without relying on offset schemes.

Its £500million-plus Cambridge Biomedical Campus building features high-tech glass panels designed to reduce ‘solar gain’.

And an array of 198 boreholes that plunge 200 metres will bring up residual heat from the ground to warm the building, which the first staff are expected to occupy later this year.

Meanwhile, the company will also complete a reforestation initiative - the AZ Forest - by planting 50 million trees in the next five years.

Working with local governments and the not-for-profit global reforestation organisation One Tree Planted, the project will begin in February, when the first trees will go into the ground in Australia, where wildfires have destroyed so much habitat. Further trees will be planted in France, Indonesia and other countries.

AstraZeneca development at the Biomedical Campus. (27527357)
AstraZeneca development at the Biomedical Campus. (27527357)

The AZ Forest was launched in support of the World Economic Forum’s new 1T.org - The Champions for a Trillion Trees platform.

Mr Soriot will also participate in the inaugural meeting of the Sustainable Markets Council (SMC), established by the Prince of Wales with the support of the World Economic Forum as an advisory body of public, private and philanthropic leaders helping to promote sustainable solutions.

AstraZeneca pledged to engage with suppliers to reduce their direct emissions and identify carbon removal options, leading to more carbon dioxide being removed from the atmosphere than added to it within a decade.

Alexander Farsan, who leads the science-based targets work for conservation charity WWF, said: “We congratulate AstraZeneca for responding to the climate emergency and raising the ambition of their science-based targets, which were already in line with the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious goal – to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.

Concept drawing of second floor lab at AstraZeneca in Cambridge. (27527334)
Concept drawing of second floor lab at AstraZeneca in Cambridge. (27527334)

“As the impact of climate change is felt by more and more communities across the globe, AstraZeneca’s collaborative approach to scale the impact of a science-based approach across their value chain is exactly what is needed.”

Last week, AstraZeneca was recognised by Corporate Knights as one of the world’s 100 most sustainable companies. It came 56th out of more than 7,000 companies assessed and was second in biopharmaceuticals, behind Sanofi, of France, in 28th.

Assessed on 21 indicators, AstraZeneca was the second highest-placed UK company, behind Unilever in 46th.

It also achieved a place on the A List for climate change produced by global environmental impact non-profit CDP based on its 2019 reporting.

The company was recognised for its actions to cut emissions, mitigate climate risks and develop the low-carbon economy.

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