Apr 22, 2024
Together, we advance the health of our planet

By Maureen Mazurek, Chief Sustainability and EHS Officer

Climate change is considered one of the greatest threats to human health1. From water scarcity and contamination to reduction in crop yields, and heat-induced health effects – there is no question that the health of the planet is directly connected to the health of its people.

Calls from the healthcare community for action to tackle climate change have been persistent for many years. In 2021 over 200 medical journals issued a joint statement urging action to keep the rise of global temperature below 1.5° C and to restore nature.

At last year’s United Nations Climate Conference (COP28), the first ever Health Day took place, culminating in the COP28 UAE Declaration On Climate And Health. The 143 signatories committed to “pursuing the better integration of health considerations into our climate policy processes, and of climate considerations across our health policy agendas.”

We know that no one company or industry can tackle climate change alone. It takes a collective effort – which includes the healthcare industry looking within to identify solutions to its own carbon footprint. if ‘healthcare’ was a country unto itself, it would be the fifth largest emitting country in the world2.

We, like many of our peers, suppliers and customers have made public commitments to tackle climate change. From our commitment in 2021 to the UN Race to Zero, setting SBTi approved science based targets, to joining the White House-HHS Health Sector climate pledge, we believe that reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint is not only good for the health of people and the planet, but is good for the future of our business.

We pledge to reduce GHG emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

However, while setting targets is relatively straightforward, realizing those targets will require tough decision making, investment and collective action across the industry.

Building on our pledge

As part of our efforts to set science-based targets, we have established a baseline for our GHG footprint across all emissions scopes. For Scope 1 & 2 we continue to make progress on reducing these  emissions through energy demand reduction and increasing the use of renewable power, and we are taking what we have learned so far from these efforts – from energy efficiency measures to performance tracking processes – as we tackle Scope 3 emissions.

In FY 2024, each of our business units will begin developing glidepaths to net zero emissions, which will form the basis of our overall decarbonization strategy. We have also begun implementation of climate accounting software, which will allow us to track emissions, measure performance and identify opportunities to support our decarbonization strategy.

Nurturing partnerships and collaboration

"Health care’s climate footprint is equivalent to 4.4% of global net emissions."

Health Care Without Harm. (2019). Health Care’s Climate Footprint. Retrieved from https://noharm-global.org/sites/default/files/documents-files/5961/HealthCaresClimateFootprint_092319.pdf

Our two largest sources of GHG emissions – Scope 3.1 (purchase goods and services) and Scope 3.12, (end of life treatment of sold products) – combined represent a large percentage of our footprint.

We cannot tackle these emissions by ourselves. It will take a collaborative approach across the healthcare value chain.

As a large share of our GHG emissions are produced in our upstream supply chain, we’re focusing on creating a supply chain that is adaptable to climate risks and able to contribute to strong environmental performance. We have engaged with our top emitting suppliers to better understand their actual emissions and their plans to reduce those emissions. We are committed to collaborating across our supply chain to learn from, and share learnings with, suppliers of all levels of maturity on the emission reduction pathway.

We recognize that not all of our reductions can come from supplier effort alone, therefore we are targeting our top emitting material categories to drive efforts around emissions reduction. Through partnership between our Responsible Sourcing team, the BD Sustainable Medical Technology Institute (SMTI) and individual business units, we aim to identify more sustainable products and services that our suppliers may offer, and to pilot innovative ideas that may decrease our emissions.

BDs SMTI is helping to tackle downstream emissions through its focus area of design for sustainability by integrating sustainable design into new product development. In this way, we empower our business and R&D leaders to innovate on ways to eliminate or reduce materials, selecting more sustainable materials and ensuring products and packaging are designed so all or some of the materials can be reused or recycled. This work is supported by our continued participation in value chain collaboratives such as the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council and the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition.

Our customers are important value chain partners even when it comes to tackling climate change. Whether it’s setting ambitious reduction targets – such as the UK’s NHS – or requesting emissions data, our customers are setting clear expectations that we are all in this together. We have already launched a number of pilot projects with customers around the world to tackle end of life disposal, and plan to build on ideas generated in “Catalyzing Collective Action to Decarbonize Healthcare. Roadmap for Health Systems and MedTech Suppliers.”3, via our membership of the Collective Healthcare Action to Reduce MedTech Emissions (CHARME).

Taking an equitable approach

While the impacts of climate change will not discriminate, the severity of the impact will be felt more keenly by vulnerable populations with the least resilience to the current rate of climate change4.

As a signatory to the World Economic Forum's Zero Health Gaps Pledge, we see opportunities to advance health equity through technology and innovation; public-private partnerships; and investment in health system strengthening. It is these same opportunities that can help lower GHG emissions.

For example, self-collection in the privacy and convenience of the home is critical to improving access to cervical cancer screening. It can empower women, especially in underserved communities, who might be deterred from seeking testing from traditional care facilities. Moving care away from more energy intensive buildings (i.e. hospitals)5 and reducing travel to and from those facilities may help to reduce emissions. Early detection and diagnosis may also reduce the need for more GHG-intensive care and treatment required for later stage illness.

With the health of humanity – and the planet – in the balance, it will take everyone in the healthcare value chain to lean in and work collectively.

Together we advance a healthier, more equitable world.


1 https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019
2 https://noharm-global.org/documents/health-care-climate-footprint-report
3 “Catalyzing Collective Action to Decarbonize Healthcare. Roadmap for Health Systems and MedTech Suppliers.” (May 2023) https://supplier.kp.org/impactspending/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2023/06/Catalyzing-Collective-Action-to-Decarbonize-Healthcare_FINAL_6-7-23.pdf
BD was one of three supplier advisors to this paper.
4 https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health
5 https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2023/lowering-carbon-emissions-through-redesigned-health-care


Subscribe to receive BD blog alerts

* Required Fields