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Global healthcare giants unite to cut emissions, aiming for net-zero carbon footprints and sustainable practices by 2045.

The world's leading pharmaceutical companies are joining forces to address the healthcare sector's significant environmental impact. With healthcare responsible for nearly 5% of global emissions, the initiative marks a critical step towards sustainability.

Following NHS England's 2020 pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2045, over 20 countries have embarked on similar journeys. The goal is to develop "climate-resilient" healthcare systems, a crucial response to climate change's increasing burden on health services worldwide.

The United States, the European Union, and China are the largest contributors, with U.S. healthcare alone accounting for 8.5% of the nation's carbon footprint. The adverse effects of climate change, including the spread of diseases and water scarcity, are driving up demand for healthcare services and, consequently, emissions.

The challenge spans various sectors, including energy, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and transport. It requires a comprehensive approach, engaging everyone from caregivers to procurement executives. The NHS has led by example, implementing measures such as employing reusable medical attire and phasing out high-global-warming potential anaesthetics.

Suppliers to the NHS have been notified that by 2030, they must also be on a path to net zero by 2045 to continue their partnerships. This directive has prompted companies to seek tangible data to inform their sustainability strategies.

At COP28, Katrine DiBona of Novo Nordisk highlighted the daunting nature of this task, stressing the importance of leveraging technology for substantial rather than incremental improvements. Similarly, Reckitt's David Croft emphasized the need for actual data over models to truly reduce emissions.

Collaboration is key to this endeavor. Platforms like Manufacture 2030 are facilitating data sharing and joint action among healthcare companies. GSK, along with other pharmaceutical leaders, is tackling the carbon footprint of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), a significant challenge given their resource-intensive production and the carbon-intensive energy sources of India and China, where many APIs are manufactured.

These companies have also set joint sustainability targets for their suppliers, including the adoption of renewable power and the reduction of water and waste. The Sustainable Markets Initiative Health Systems Taskforce is developing standards for assessing the lifecycle emissions of medical products and identifying major emission drivers in healthcare delivery.

The push towards renewables is vital, with companies facilitating power purchase agreements (PPAs) to bring more green energy online, particularly in regions critical to medicine production.

As these efforts unfold, the pharmaceutical sector is not only addressing its environmental impact but also setting a precedent for cross-sectoral collaboration towards a sustainable future. This journey towards decarbonizing healthcare promises to benefit not just the planet but the health and well-being of communities worldwide.

Samira is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, but deep inside, her heart is a nomad! She's a state champion debater, a public speaker, a scriptwriter, a theatre actress, but most importantly — A GREEN CITIZEN! She thinks of herself as a storyteller who thrives on enjoying the life at fullest and telling everyone the tales of life.

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