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Climate change: The elephant in the waiting room of health

Climate change: The elephant in the waiting room of health

The pharma industry has clearly stated its commitment to a net zero future, but where are we on that journey, what else can be done, and could organisations achieve more if they worked together?

The carbon footprint of healthcare has increased by 40% since 1990, said James Gregson, life sciences and healthcare managing partner at Delotte, who moderated the Reuters Events webinar, Pharma’s Climate Goals.

“Accounting for about 10% of global GDP, the healthcare sector has had an enormous impact on all our lives,” he went on, adding that pharma was at the “centre of that ecosystem”.

“In recent years, we have seen encouraging signs from the large pharma companies to increase the commitment fighting climate change and to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) more broadly.”

Changing attuites

Gary Cohen, president and founder of non-profit Health Care Without Harm, said greater awareness of the connection between environment and health was driving change.

“There has been a good 20 years of healthcare moving up stream and addressing the social determinants of health: the things that make people sick in the first place,” he said.

“What we are seeing now is this integration between environmental health and social determinants of health. Basically, climate is the elephant in the waiting room – it is the greatest social determinant of all.”

At the same time, healthcare systems, aware that around 70% of their climate footprint comes from their supply chains, are “leveraging their purchasing power”, said Cohen.

“There are so many different dimensions of possible action – around plastics and anaesthetic gases, food, fleets and transportation, for example – where aggregated demand can drive innovation in the marketplace to make low-carbon solutions the standard.”

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