RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Neuroscience pioneer Biogen, with manufacturing in RTP, has drawn an aggressive line in the sand in support of the environment.
The company just announced a $250 million, 20-year initiative – Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives – to eliminate fossil fuel emissions across all its operations by 2040.
As part of that effort, the company also will seek out global research collaborations to tackle the effects of fossil fuel-driven air pollution on public health.
“Our Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives initiative builds on Biogen’s long-standing strategy to deal with climate change by addressing the interrelated challenges of climate and health, including the realm of brain health,” said company CEO Michel Vounatsos. “Biogen was the first company in the life sciences industry to become carbon neutral. We believe that it is time to take even greater action by implementing a well-defined program that examines how we live, how we do business and how we consume energy.”
Biogen says it plans to remove its dependence on fossils over the next two decades by:
- Using renewable energy to power all its operations.
- Encouraging suppliers to become fossil fuel free. The goal is for 80% of those companies to commit to science-based targets by 2025, and 90% by 2040
- Converting its motor fleet of 1,500 vehicles to fully electric by 2025.
- Establishing new green chemistry targets to reduce or eliminate hazardous substances, and hitting 90% of those targets by 2030.
- Eliminating, minimizing or recycling all plastics used in packaging.
- Investing in companies committed to environmental sustainability.
- Supporting efforts by employees to go fossil free in their homes, and providing more investment options that support the environment.
“The breadth of Biogen’s initiative is striking,” said Bill Sisson, executive director of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development North America. His organization represents more than 200 international companies and focuses on sustainable development. “While others are taking significant steps to get to net-zero carbon emissions, Biogen is taking the next step by eliminating fossil fuel use in all aspects of its business,” he added. “I applaud their ambition.”
Biogen said it also will work with global academic institutions – including MIT and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – to develop new ways to attack the environmental and health effects of climate change. The company hopes to influence public policy and improve health outcomes, particularly for the world’s most at risk populations.
An estimated nine million lives are lost each year due to air pollution-related health problems, making it one of the leading global causes of death. And “children living in highly polluted areas are more likely to have behavioral problems and slower development,” said Aaron Bernstein, M.D., interim director at the Harvard Chan Center for Climate Health and Global Environment. “Air pollution can affect their cognition and may even set their brains up for neurodegenerative disease later in life.”
Biogen said funding for Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives will begin in 2021.
Biogen, headquartered in Massachusetts, was founded in 1978 as one of the world’s first global biotechnology companies. It develops therapies that address serious neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, neuromuscular and movement disorders, acute neurology and pain. The company operates a large manufacturing, lab warehouse and office complex in Research Triangle Park.
(C) N.C. Biotech Center