Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives™

Biogen marks one-year anniversary of $250 million, 20-year commitment to accelerate action on the greatest challenges of our time: climate, health and equity.

The climate crisis is a health crisis, with a disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities. Fossil fuel-related air pollution not only contributes to the climate crisis, research suggests it worsens a number of health conditions and contributes to one in five deaths globally.1 There is an urgent need to accelerate action.

Launched in September 2020, Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives™ is Biogen’s groundbreaking 20-year, $250 million initiative to address climate, health and equity. We aim to eliminate fossil fuel emissions across our operations by 2040, engage employees and suppliers and collaborate with renowned institutions to advance the science and action to improve health outcomes.

While fully decarbonizing Biogen’s global operations is a complex, long-term commitment, over the past year, we have made important strides in advancing our ambitious Science Based Targets initiative-approved climate goals. We have engaged our suppliers around shared climate goals and assisted our employees in a wide variety of initiatives at work, at home and in our communities. We also have worked with leading institutions to advance the science on air pollution and health and create new roadmaps to mitigate climate impacts on human wellbeing and used our voice to advocate for climate action. 

In line with our commitment to transparency, we are proud to share highlights of our goals and progress below and in our Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives One-Year Anniversary Report.

Together, our goal is to create a healthy, sustainable and equitable future, where science meets humanity.

 

 

 

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

 

The Need for Action is Clear

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called the sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report a Code Red for Humanity. There is growing concern about the significant impacts of climate change on human health, particularly among vulnerable populations. Together, 230 international medical journals have issued a joint statement calling the climate crisis the “greatest threat to global public health.”1

Scientific research has found that air pollution from fossil fuels lowers the average global life expectancy by 1.1 years.2 Evidence is emerging that air pollution also may negatively impact brain health, including as a modifiable factor contributing to dementia.3

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

For Biogen, which cares deeply about human health and discovers, develops and delivers innovative therapies for people living with serious neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, there is an imperative to advance the science and pioneer solutions.

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)

In 2014, Biogen became the first life sciences company to achieve carbon neutrality, signing the renewable electricity (RE) RE100 pledge and shifting 100% of our electricity consumption to renewable sources.

We also have shifted our renewable electricity purchasing strategy to help expand the market and overall capacity for renewable energy generation. For example, we are negotiating a renewable virtual power purchasing agreement (VPPA) for our U.S. and Canadian facilities and fleet, and have signed a two-year direct contract for hydropower for our Cambridge, MA campus.

Learn more in our 2020 Year In Review

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 burns 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 alternatives.

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. Biogen has launched technical assessments of three major Biogen sites as the next step in fully decarbonizing our facilities.

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 advancing science-based targets (milestones: 2025, 2030 and 2040)

Like many companies, Biogen’s largest source of fossil fuel emissions and air pollution is embedded in the goods and services we purchase. We aim to support key suppliers in developing tailored action plans to accelerate their transition away from fossil fuels and toward a healthier clean energy future.

We have established the following collective targets:

  • By 2025, 80% of our suppliers, by spend, covering purchased goods and services, will set climate-related science-based targets (SBTs). 
  • By 2030, 50% of our suppliers, by spend, will source 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. 
  • By 2040, 90% of our suppliers, by spend, will source 100% of their electricity from renewable sources.

We are pleased to recognize commitments from several Biogen suppliers, including Bertelsmann SE & CO. KGaA, Catalent Pharma Solutions, Charles River Laboratories, Fribourg site, IQVIA, PWC, Publicis Groupe, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Vetter and Vifor Ltd, to set science-based targets by 2025. In addition, suppliers, including Fribourg site, Sharp, Vetter, and Vifor Ltd. source or plan to source 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

As a member of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI), Biogen is collaborating with our pharmaceutical peers in the development of supplier-facing training modules for PSCI’s Principles e-Learning tool to cover specific environment, ethics, human rights and labor, and health and safety priorities. Suppliers are encouraged to participate in 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 2,000 leased vehicles worldwide. 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 advance our goal, we launched a battery electric vehicles (BEVs) program, with BEVs on the road or ordered in 11 countries. (Learn how we are implementing sustainable transportation in Portugal). We have begun the process of installing more than 500 EV charging points at our office locations and have added plug-in hybrid vehicles to our fleet as an interim solution where EV infrastructure remains challenging.

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.

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 research through final formulation. As a member of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) Pharma Roundtable, we have employed the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry to reduce our water and energy input, use of fossil fuel-derived solvents and waste output.

With Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives, we have set even more ambitious green chemistry targets:

  • In 2021, we began rolling out Principles for Sustainable Drug Development companywide, addressing Biogen's multi-franchise portfolio​ with circular economy principles.
  • By 2023, green chemistry principles and specific targets 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.

We also are working to 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 are working to 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.

Fossil fuel-derived plastics

Plastics and Packaging (milestones by 2025 and 2040)

The quality and safety of our products is of paramount concern, and wherever possible, Biogen has been working to advance quality and safety goals while also addressing fossil-fuel derived plastics.

Across all areas of our business, we aim to avoid waste and identify alternative materials with a preference to reusable materials made from renewable feedstocks or highly biodegradable materials. Our long-term goal is to eliminate, minimize and/or closed-loop recycle plastics across all business functions. We aim to pursue as comprehensive an approach as possible today, refine our approach as technology evolves, and collaborate to find acceptable new solutions.

While our use of fossil fuel-derived plastics is small when compared to other industries, plastics are pervasive in the pharmaceutical space and comprehensive, regulatory-approved alternatives do not yet exist at scale.

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

Biogen is pursuing 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, with four sustainable packaging goals, including to become PVC-free and to phase out plastic packing trays by 2025. We aim to fully eliminate plastics in secondary and tertiary packaging by 2040.

In 2021, Biogen became a signatory of the Business Call for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution.

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 employee owns and contributes to our shared goals, and we are inspired by our colleagues around the world who are innovating to address climate, health and equity.

We have a range of opportunities for our employees to become even more actively involved, in the office, at home and in our communities. Examples include:

  • OurIMPACT is Biogen’s Employee Resource Network for sharing best practices and advancing projects related to climate, health and equity.
  • The Healthy Climate, Healthy People Employee Innovation Challenge encouraged employees to share promising ideas for reducing our reliance on fossil fuels while promoting health equity and patient outcomes. We are working to implement many of the concepts and sustain ongoing engagement.
  • Our employee benefit programs help enhance sustainability in all parts of their lives. Biogen covers the cost differential for 100% Renewable Energy at Home, and offers an incentive program that helps offset the costs of switching from fossil fuel to energy-efficient home goods, such as electric appliances, hot water heaters, etc.
  • Expanding Biogen’s Care Deeply volunteer program and Community Lab program to include a climate and health-focused lesson from a newly-developed American Public Health Association (APHA) high school curriculum developed in collaboration with Biogen. Biogen employee volunteers are the first to pilot the curriculum with students.

 

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 support vulnerable communities

Biogen is working with renowned institutions and global leaders to advance the science on climate and health and to inspire action.

  • We are collaborating with the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and the MIT Technology and Policy Program to create an innovative new model of how different climate actions may impact human health. The model, which is being previewed through several events and technical notes, uses data science and predictive analytics to help identify pathways to climate targets that can deliver the greatest health benefits as early as possible. The model can be used to bridge research-to-policy gaps, influence policy decisions to promote health among vulnerable communities, and train the next generation of scientists and leaders for far-reaching impact.
  • Climate change and air pollution are already harming human health, but few healthcare centers are prepared. Biogen is working with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE) and Americares to help under-resourced healthcare clinics address climate risks, enhance resilience and improve patient health. We are piloting a program with nine frontline healthcare centers and have surveyed 250 clinical staff to assess climate impacts, mitigation options and patient care needs as part of our long-term program.
  • We are working to advance the science on climate change and human health, in conjunction with global experts. For example, in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, we convened an interdisciplinary meeting of 100+ experts to further explore the potential connection between air pollution and dementia.

Collaborating with these and other leading global organizations, 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’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.

 

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
  • Share insights
  • Engage with renowned institutions, governments, civil society and our peers
  • Advocate for science-based progress at the intersection of climate, health and equity

Among many others, we are engaging with:

Through these and other collaborations, we are working at the intersection where science meets humanity, and aim to promote a healthy, sustainable and equitable world.

Read more on our progress in our Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives One-Year Anniversary Report.