Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives™

Biogen invests $250 million in a 20-year initiative to accelerate action on the greatest challenges of our time: climate, health and equity.

Fossil fuel-related air pollution not only contributes to the climate crisis, it claims 9 million lives annually, making it one the world’s top killers1. Evidence shows that fossil fuel emissions play a direct role in the worsening of various health conditions, and emerging data suggests possible links to COVID-19 as well as brain health.

Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives™ is a bold 20-year, $250 million initiative to address this challenge. We aim to eliminate fossil fuels across our operations and collaborate with renowned institutions to advance the science, improve human health outcomes, advance brain health research and support underserved communities.

“Our Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives initiative further builds on Biogen’s long-standing strategy to deal with climate change by addressing the interrelated challenges of climate and health, including in the realm of brain health,” said Michel Vounatsos, CEO, Biogen. “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 will play its part to address and impact dramatic health disparities among people around the world, as well as build a stronger, more sustainable future for all.

— Michel Vounatsos, CEO, Biogen

Together, our goal is to create an equitable future where everyone enjoys a healthy climate and a healthy life. It’s where science meets humanity.

 

PODCAST: Chirfi Guindo speaks with I AM BIO on climate, health and equity

BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath interviews Chirfi Guindo about Biogen's role in creating a more equitable and sustainable future, especially through its Healthy Climate, Healthy LivesTM initiative.

 

The Need for Action is Clear

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted dramatic health disparities as well as air pollution’s role in compounding health risks. Evidence is also emerging around fossil fuels’ potential role in accelerating diseases, as well as cognitive decline. For Biogen, which discovers, develops and delivers innovative therapies for people living with serious neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, there is an imperative to pioneer solutions.

At the same time, the data on climate has changed, making the need for urgent action even clearer. 

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) image being used to detect stroke in the brain's cerebral artery. The World Health Organization says that 24% of stroke-related deaths are linked to air pollution.
Photo credit: Getty Images

Biogen has been a long-standing leader on climate action and is committed to following the science to avoid the most severe consequences to human health and to our planet. Read Biogen’s Climate Change Position Statement.

 

Our Commitment to Go Beyond Net Zero

Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives is Biogen’s long-term commitment to go beyond carbon neutral and net zero. The framework below demonstrates our commitment to this vision – a plan that will continue to evolve with stakeholder input and as new scientific evidence and commercially scalable solutions become available.

Biogen has had its emissions reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative as consistent with levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The targets covering greenhouse gas emissions from Biogen’s operations are consistent with reductions required to keep warming to 1.5°C, the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement. Our goal is to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 55% by 2032 and 100% by 2040 from a 2019 base year, with 80% of suppliers – by spend, covering purchased goods and services and capital goods – will have science-based targets by 2025.

Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives has two principal components: 

  1. We pledged to become fossil fuel free, eliminating emissions on an accelerated timeframe, going far beyond carbon neutral. Learn how Biogen aims to go fossil fuel free.
  2. We are collaborating with global leaders including Harvard T.H. Chan School and MIT to use data science and predictive analytics to drive strategies to mitigate environmental and health impacts from climate change as well as influence policy and improve health outcomes, particularly for the world’s most vulnerable populations. Learn more about the collaboration.

 


What does it mean to go “beyond net zero”?

  • Carbon neutral means to balance the emission of CO₂ by removing an equal amount of CO₂ from the atmosphere (often through carbon offsets).
  • Net zero means to balance the emission of all greenhouse gases by removing an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Fossil fuel free means to stop burning fossil fuels and eliminate the resulting emissions.


Principal Component 1:

100% renewable energy across operations

Fossil Fuel Free Electricity (completed in 2014)

Biogen has taken a leadership position to manage our climate impact. In 2014 Biogen signed the RE100 pledge and immediately shifted our electricity consumption to renewable generating sources.

We have maintained 100% renewable electricity (RE) across 30 of the markets where we operate. In total, this equates to 99.94% of our global demand, with 0.06% remaining unmet in South Korea and New Zealand, where Biogen is facing barriers to sourcing RE in accordance with the strict RE100 criteria. We will work with other RE100 members to improve supply in these markets.

To date, this has resulted in the avoidance of more than 230,000 MT of carbon dioxide and tons of other air pollutants that harm people and the environment. Biogen plans to maintain its 100% fossil fuel free electricity in perpetuity.

Our journey with renewable electricity continues as we look deeper into the additionality that the renewable electricity we purchase provides. For example, in 2020, we signed a two-year contract to obtain 100% of the electricity for our Massachusetts, USA facility from a local renewable project.

Biogen-Owned Facility Electrification (planned for 2025-2040)

Biogen maintains four large manufacturing and R&D facilities: one in Massachusetts, USA; two in North Carolina, USA; and one in Solothurn, Switzerland. Each of these facilities burn more than 35,000 MWh of natural gas to heat, cook, generate steam and power our operations. Our engineering team is formulating strategies to operate these facilities without fossil fuel combustion by 2040. This may mean transitioning to electric heat pumps and steam generators or using technologies such as geothermal heating.

Our Massachusetts location currently houses a large natural gas cogeneration unit. Installed in 2006, this unit has significantly decreased our climate impact due to the efficiency gains of cogeneration of electricity and steam; however, emerging science points to health concerns associated with natural gas extraction, storage and combustion. With the rise of renewable electricity and technological improvements, we will sunset this approach and identify effective solutions to fill its role.

One of the more challenging components of building electrification will be backup power. As is common around the world, Biogen uses fuel oil powered backup generators. We will evaluate the feasibility of alternatives such as lithium-ion batteries and green hydrogen to meet our needs and ensure business continuity.

Leased Facility Electrification (planned 2025-2040)

Biogen leases numerous spaces around the world. As these are rented facilities, we plan to work with the building owners on plans to eliminate their fossil fuel impacts – and, in some cases, we may relocate to buildings that already have.

Biogen’s Massachusetts location houses a cogeneration unit, which has significantly decreased our climate impact. With the rise of technological improvements, we will identify effective solutions to shift to renewable electricity.

Fossil fuel reduction by suppliers

Support suppliers in converting to fossil fuel free, with clear expectations and targets (milestones: 2025, 2030 and 2040)

Biogen’s largest source of fossil fuel emissions and air pollution is embedded in the goods and services we purchase. Our approach is to deepen our relationships with key suppliers to support their incremental shift away from fossil fuels and toward a healthier clean energy future. We aim to support key suppliers in developing tailored action plans to accelerate this transition.

We have established the following collective expectations:

  • By 2025, 80% of our suppliers, by spend, covering purchased goods and services, will set climate-related science-based targets (SBTs). As of 2019, more than 15% of our supplier spend had set SBTs with another 16% committed to setting one within the next two years.
  • By 2030, 50% of our suppliers, by spend, will source 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. As of 2019, 1% of our supplier spend had achieved this target with another 14% committed.
  • By 2040, 90% of our suppliers, by spend, will source 100% of their electricity from renewable sources.

To advance these ambitious targets, we recently engaged with key suppliers. From this engagement we received several commitments including from Vetter and Vifor Ltd, Fribourg site, to set science-based targets by 2025, and from Sharp, Vetter, and Vifor Ltd, Fribourg site to source 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

Additionally, as a member of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI), Biogen is collaborating with our pharmaceutical peers in the development of training modules for PSCI’s Principles e-Learning tool to cover specific environment, ethics, human rights and labor, and health and safety priorities. Suppliers will be assigned these trainings to improve their awareness and performance on these key environmental, social and governance issues.

Electric Fleet

Vehicle Fleet Electrification (planned for 2025)

Biogen’s fleet consists of more than 1,500 leased vehicles worldwide. As of June 2020, nine of those vehicles were battery electric vehicles. (Learn how we are implementing sustainable transportation in Portugal).

In 2020, we joined the EV100 partnership to help us advance our goal of converting every new vehicle lease to all-electric vehicles by 2025. We anticipate the full conversion to be completed by 2027.

To provide our fleet-operating employees with uninterrupted mobility and an even greater level of convenience, over the next decade, Biogen will install home EV chargers for each fleet driver and more than 500 EV charging points at our office locations.

We are also working with our Biogen Bus partner to electrify the employee commuter Biogen Bus fleet.

Green Chemistry Targets

Establish new green chemistry targets (milestones: 2021, 2023 and 2030)

We are accelerating the integration of green chemistry into our operations – from discovery research through final formulation. As a member of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) Pharma Roundtable, we employed the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry to realize a range of environmental benefits, reducing our water and energy input, use of fossil fuel-derived solvents and waste output.

With Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives, we are setting even more ambitious green chemistry targets:

  • By 2021, Biogen chemists will devise green chemistry key performance metrics and targets specific to each of our processes and product types.
  • By 2023, these metrics and green chemistry principles will be integrated into all stages of therapy development across the company.
  • By 2030, all products will achieve greater than 90% of green chemistry targets.
  • Expand on our collaborations to find innovation solutions to increase achievement.

Ideally, it would be easy to identify alternatives for all fossil fuel-derived ingredients and solvents by 2040; realistically, this will depend on technological and scientific advances. We will leverage our involvement in a number of industry and university collaborations including the IQ Green Chemistry Working Group, ACS and the Center for Rational Catalyst Synthesis with the goal to catalyze innovation not only within the design and manufacturing of Biogen products, but in the broader scientific community.

We have already delivered significant progress through Biogen’s Green Chemistry program. Read more in our Year in Review.

Fossil fuel-derived plastics

Like most companies today, Biogen uses fossil fuels across our value chain. Plastics are a notable example, and comprehensive, regulatory-approved alternatives do not yet exist at scale. We aim to pursue as comprehensive an approach as possible today and to refine our plans as technology grows.

Plastics and Packaging: While our use of fossil fuel-derived plastics is small when compared to other industries, plastics are pervasive in the pharmaceutical space. Biogen has been working to reduce material usage and waste, and in 2019 achieved waste reductions even as our business grew.

The quality and safety of our products is of paramount concern. Where the replacement of plastics with alternative materials will have no negative impact on the product, Biogen will work with industry coalitions such as PhRMA to coordinate with regulators to update manufacturing requirements.

After reviewing plastic usage throughout our operations, we identified four initial areas of focus:

  • Single-use plastics, ranging from laboratory wares (e.g., pipette tips) to food-related items in cafeterias and breakrooms.
  • Fossil fuel-derived raw materials or feedstocks, which will be addressed via our Green Chemistry program. 
  • Non-essential plastics, including gifts and promotional materials.
  • Product packaging, starting with the elimination of plastics in secondary and tertiary packaging by 2040.

Across all areas of our business, we aim to avoid waste through elimination of non-impactful material uses and identify alternative materials with a preference to reusable materials made from renewable feedstocks or highly biodegradable materials.

Where alternatives are incompatible with regulatory requirements, we will establish processes to enable closed-loop recycling of these materials over the long term.

Plastics are pervasive in the pharmaceutical space. Biogen has been working to reduce material usage and waste while maintaining quality and safety of our products.

Financial duty and investments

As Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives  aims to eliminate fossil fuels, we must also consider where we are investing our money and the type of future it supports. It is our fiduciary duty to maximize the risk-adjusted returns of our investments and provide superior investment options within our employee retirement and pension plans. To that end, we will engage with our financial advisors around our fossil fuel free goal and evaluate ESG-focused companies and funds and other investment options with an eye towards enhancing long-term risk-adjusted returns. When those options meet our requirements, we will incorporate them into our retirement plans and corporate investment strategies.

Employee Engagement

Every Biogen employee owns this initiative. Fossil fuels are pervasive in our world, and our employees have an invaluable perspective on where and how we use them and the resulting impact fossil fuels have on their families, our patients, our community and our planet.

We intend to create opportunities for our employees to become even more actively involved in meeting new science-based targets – both in the office and at home. This includes:

  • Providing a way for all employees to share their innovative ideas to eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels while promoting health equity and patient outcomes. This approach will ensure that projects receive thoughtful review and can be sustained over time.
  • Establishing an employee benefit program to help our employees go fossil fuel free in their homes:
    • Full-time eligible employees can use this benefit towards the purchase of capital goods that help reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, such as an energy-efficient appliance, electric lawnmower, electric vehicle, solar roof, etc.
    • To help employees switch to 100% renewable electricity at home, Biogen will provide a fixed reimbursement to pay the increased utility cost or Biogen will directly purchase renewable electricity credits on behalf of employees to match 100% of their home electricity usage. By 2030 we aim to have 100% of employees participating in this program.
  • Creating OurIMPACT, a climate-related Employee Resource Network.
  • Expanding Biogen’s Care Deeply volunteer program to include new climate-related projects that enable our employees to amplify our positive impact in the places where we live and work.

 

Principal Component 2:

Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives is Biogen’s long-term goal to go beyond carbon neutral and net zero. We will work with leading institutions to create a new roadmap for climate action and health, advance the science, advocate for climate-related policy change and convene decision-makers and other key stakeholders to advance collective action.

Biogen offers commuter benefits, including encouraging employees to bike to work.

Biogen’s collaboration will introduce an exciting new facet into the Joint Program. We applaud their ambition…Working with the Technology and Policy Program, we will bring together key stakeholders, from policymakers to local community leaders, with the goal of more effective and inclusive decision-making.”

— MIT Joint Program Co-Director Ronald Prinn, TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Science in the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

 

  • Collaborating to advance the science and set new targets – We will work with renowned institutions to use data science and predictive analytics to drive strategies to mitigate climate and health impacts from climate change as well as influence policy and improve health outcomes, particularly for the world’s most vulnerable populations.

The collaboration with the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and the MIT Technology and Policy Program will support the creation of new models of how different climate actions impact human health. The insights will be used to bridge research-to-policy gaps, influence policy decisions and advance training of the next generation of scientists and leaders for far-reaching impact. 

  • We also plan to advance the science on fossil fuels and brain health, convening the world’s leading researchers to build a scientific consensus, identify pressing gaps and sponsor research to advance understanding of the health implications of this potential dynamic.
  • Creating new approaches to help under-resourced healthcare centers reduce climate risks to improve resiliency and enhance patient health. Climate change and air pollution are already harming human health, but few healthcare centers are prepared. Biogen will lead the way, working with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE) to help under-resourced healthcare clinics become more climate resilient and improve patient health.
  • Engaging global leaders to influence the dialogue and agenda for change – Biogen recognizes that the most promising new thinking must rapidly reach global scale. We are stepping up to lead new initiatives; engage with renowned institutions, governments, civil society and its peers; and share its insights and advocate for science-based progress at the intersection of climate, health and equity. We are the first U.S. pharmaceutical company to join the Business Ambition for 1.5C.

Biogen’s collaboration will inject an exciting new facet into the Joint Program: inclusion of human health and well-being as key new considerations in decision-making regarding the best pathways forward to address the global climate challenge.”

— MIT Joint Program Co-Director Ronald Prinn, TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Science in the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

 

We are engaging with:

With these leading global organizations and other collaboration partners, we aim to advance a forward-looking research agenda on the health impacts of fossil fuel use, make new insights broadly available and elevate the evidence-based strategies that can deliver the greatest benefits for planetary and human health.

Biogen supports the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we need to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C. Without immediate, significant and sustained action to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the global temperature rise will exceed the 1.5° target, which is likely to have severe consequences for human health and broader ecological well-being. Read Biogen’s Climate Position.

The evidence is growing that climate change also harms human health. The World Health Organization identifies climate change as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.”2 Around the world, direct and indirect health impacts are already being felt in a variety of ways, from extreme weather events to the spread of infectious diseases. Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis and directly harming human health. The greatest burden falls on the most vulnerable and least served portions of society, including children and the elderly, those with the lowest incomes, and marginalized and minority groups.