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Which Pharma Company is winning the Race to Zero?

Our planet's environment needs our help more than ever, especially as we celebrate Earth Day.

In 2019, the pharmaceutical industry produced 488.55 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per $1 million dollars generated. This surpassed the automotive industry by 55% during the same year.

Deforestation, the rapid chopping down of trees mainly for farms, cities, and mines, is a big problem. But why does this matter? Trees act as natural air purifiers, sucking up carbon dioxide (CO2), a major culprit behind climate change. When we cut down trees, all that stored CO2 gets released into the atmosphere, making global warming worse.

What is the Race to Zero?

The movement to protect our environment is shining through initiatives like the 'Race to Zero' campaign. According to Climate Champions: Race to Zero, 13,000 participants have enlisted since 2020. The campaign is composed of individuals, corporations, regions, cities, and various institutions. The overall goal is to reduce the amount of global emissions by 50% by the year 2030. A prominent measure adopted by companies to uphold transparency is to publish Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reports. According to Wolters Kluwer, the purpose of these reports is to disseminate information that concerns a company’s corporate, social, and environmental performance metrics.

What are the ESG reports?

An ESG report, short for Environmental, Social, and Governance report, offers insights into a company's performance and commitments regarding environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and corporate governance. The three pillars of ESG reports are as follows:

  • Environmental - Concerns the organization's influence on the planet.

  • Social - Relates to the organization's impact on individuals, encompassing employees, customers, and the community.

  • Governance - Focuses on the transparency and effectiveness of the organization's governance structure.

These reports are increasingly valuable for investors, stakeholders, and the public, shedding light on a company's societal and environmental impact alongside financial data. ESG reports encompass various aspects, including carbon emissions, diversity, labor practices, community engagement, board composition, and ethical business conduct. Companies utilize ESG reporting to showcase their dedication to sustainability and ethical operations while ensuring transparency in their activities.

How can pharmaceutical companies lessen their impact?

  • Utilize animal-free alternatives when possible.

  • Innovate on renewable energy and electric transportation globally.

  • Implement renewable energy sources and reduce non-renewable energy usage.

  • Utilize recyclable packaging and reduce waste.

  • Ensure sustainability standards are met by suppliers and manufacturers.

  • Invest in research for healthcare accessibility and climate-resilient medicines.

So, which pharma company is winning the Race to Zero?

In 2020, Takeda achieved carbon neutrality, setting a benchmark in sustainability. Meanwhile, other industry leaders are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint:

  • Belgium-based SwiftPharma licenses PlantForm's sustainable technology for global development of plant-made antibodies, proteins, and vaccines, aiming to advance affordable, effective drugs worldwide while minimizing environmental impact.

  • CEOs from AstraZeneca, GSK, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Samsung Biologics, Sanofi, and global health organizations unite under the Sustainable Markets Initiative Health Systems Task Force to cut greenhouse gas emissions in healthcare systems and supply chains, aiming for net-zero emissions and tackling climate change's health impacts.

  • Astellas, Eisai, Daiichi Sankyo, and Takeda are collaborating to reduce environmental impact in pharmaceutical packaging by promoting the use of eco-friendly materials and technologies, aiming to extend the initiative to other companies in the future.

Check out the document below to learn more about what the top pharmaceutical companies are doing to improve their environmental impact.

Why should you join the Race?

This campaign invites individuals, groups, and organizations to join a larger collective effort. With climate change escalating, participation in such initiatives is crucial. According to Climate Change: Global Temperature, Earth's average temperature has risen by 0.11ºF per decade since 1850, reaching its highest in 2023. Moreover, the years between 2014 and 2023 have been the warmest on record. While the impact of individual companies may seem small, the combined efforts of thousands can create significant, enduring safeguards for our planet, benefiting generations to come.


The 'Race to Zero' initiative has garnered significant attention, with pharmaceutical companies each developing their own strategies to contribute effectively. However, it's vital to acknowledge that companies started from different positions, with variations in greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on non-renewable energy sources. Therefore, measuring success solely by percentages is inadequate; instead, it should be based on reductions in emissions and non-renewable energy over time.

Here at VeganMed, we support sustainability advocating for health products without animal-derived ingredients and also encouraging companies for transparent animal-free labeling. Happy Earth Day!

Co-authored by: Matthew Beaver, Tiffany Stephens

Research by: Cora Altomari, Christie Hurteau, Obianuju Obi

Pharma ESG Reports
Download • 545KB


Disclaimer: The product and/or information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We do not lab test the products to confirm that they are free from animal ingredients, and it is possible that the formulation and ingredients could have changed. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product. The information provided in this post is accurate and up to date as of the date it was written. However, please note that circumstances and facts may change over time, and new information may become available that could alter the accuracy or relevance of the content. We encourage readers to verify and cross-reference any information provided here with trusted sources or consult relevant professionals for the most current and accurate updates.


Looking for certified and verified animal-free products?

Thank you for your awareness and concern for animal-derived ingredients!

As a reminder, please comment on our FDA Citizen Petition, requesting clear labeling of animal-derived ingredients in medications. Together, we can make a difference.

If you have any further questions about ingredients in your medicines and supplements, feel free to reach out to the VeganMed team!

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