How to protect planetary and human health

A message from

The impact of climate change on human health is now unequivocal. Between 2030 and 2050, it’s expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths per year from increased effects like heat stress and malnutrition. 

Without reducing the emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG), our access to clean air, safe drinking water and food, and secure shelter is at risk.

Caroline Roan, Pfizer’s chief sustainability officer and senior vice president of Global Health and Social Impact, provides details on Pfizer’s recently announced commitment to accelerate its decarbonization plans. 

1. First thing’s first: Why does Pfizer care about minimizing the impact of climate change?

Caroline: Climate change profoundly impacts human health, which is Pfizer’s core business.

  • This isn’t theoretical — we’re already seeing global impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more severe weather events, air pollution, geographical changes in vector-borne disease, food insecurity due to drought and more. 
  • Climate change is also a health equity issue because it affects all communities, especially historically marginalized communities.

An estimated 4% to 5% of global GHG emissions are attributed to the health system — we recognize that action is needed and feel compelled to contribute to the solution.

2. The goal: What impact does Pfizer hope to have on environmental issues that can affect human health?

Caroline: Guided by our company purpose, “Breakthroughs that change patients’ lives,” we’re committed to reducing our company's GHG emissions and engaging with partners and suppliers throughout our value chain to encourage similar action, such as: 

  • Setting ambitious GHG emission reduction goals for our operations, implementing actions to achieve those goals and striving to procure 100% of our electricity from renewable sources.
  • Working closely with our thousands of suppliers to encourage equal ambition in delivering GHG reductions.
  • Sharing our progress in meeting our goals through our environmental, social and governance report. 

In addition, as part of our core business, we apply our scientific, development and manufacturing expertise to develop new medicines and vaccines — some of which may potentially address diseases and conditions linked to climate change.

Why it’s important: Roughly 80% of our GHG emissions come from operations we don’t directly manage, yet they are a critical part of our value chain in ensuring continuity of supply of medicines and vaccines to patients. 

  • Examples include suppliers that make raw materials or manufacturing components or  companies that transport our products. 

To truly address the impact of planetary health on human health, action from all parties across all sectors is needed. 

3. Looking ahead: Pfizer recently announced a commitment to reduce GHG emissions and aims to achieve the voluntary Net-Zero Standard by 2040. What does this entail?

Caroline: Pfizer has had a longstanding commitment to climate action. We set our first company GHG goals in 2000 and are proud to have reduced our emissions by 64% in the past 21 years.

But let’s face it — the world has changed dramatically since 2000 and there is a growing need for urgent climate action, so we are challenging ourselves and applying our company’s value of courage to accelerate our decarbonization plans. 

The background: The Net-Zero Standard, published by the Science Based Targets initiative, provides guidance and recommendations for reducing company emissions by 95% and value chain emissions by 90% no later than 2050.

We’re committing to achieve the ambitious Net-Zero Standard across our value chain by 2040 from a 2019 baseline, which is 10 years earlier than the expectations of the standard.

  • To achieve this bold ambition, we plan to transition to renewable and no-carbon technologies across our operations and strive to deliver similar action throughout our vast global supply chain, all while continuing to deliver on our commitments to patients. 

This transition will challenge our global network, requiring invention and tenacity, and will include large strategic infrastructure projects, as well as day-to-day actions from all global colleagues. 

4. How it’s done: What action will Pfizer take to accelerate the decarbonization of its value chain and work with suppliers to reduce GHG emissions?

Caroline: We are engaging our global network of colleagues to embed sustainability practices and integrating tried-and-tested solutions, all while challenging our team to bring forward innovative ideas and solutions. 

Our key areas of focus include:

  • Advancing energy conservation programs at our sites to reduce energy demand.
  • Increasing the manufacturing process efficiency to limit energy demand.
  • Identifying low or no-carbon solutions at the scale and intensity needed to meet the utility demands of R&D and manufacturing operations.
  • Transitioning our sales fleet vehicles to electric and hybrid alternatives.

It won’t be easy, but we have the ambition and, importantly, the commitment and support of our leadership to set and achieve bold goals. 

The reality is some of the solutions needed for this ambitious transition are not yet commercially available — but we’re not alone and are seeking to partner with organizations that share similar ambitions to access breakthrough technologies and innovations. 

Together, we believe we can drive meaningful progress that helps protect our planet and people alike.

Find out more about Pfizer’s commitment to accelerate climate action.