AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, has made a groundbreaking move towards sustainability by announcing its partnership with Vanguard Renewables, a Massachusetts-based company that develops renewable energy projects. The partnership will see AstraZeneca switch to biogas produced from cow manure and food waste in the US to reduce its carbon emissions.
This is the first of its kind collaboration, and AstraZeneca CEO, Pascal Soriot, has stated that the company is willing to pay more for biogas, which is produced from cow manure and food waste, despite the easy availability of natural gas in the US. Soriot stated that “doing the right thing costs a little bit more, but it is not punitive.”
The process involves combining manure from three farms, each with approximately 900 cattle, with food waste and placing the mixture in an area the size of “a big ice skating rink” with apparatus above to capture methane. The methane will then be purified and piped into AstraZeneca’s gas grid. The agreement will produce as much as 650,000 million thermal units per year, equivalent to the energy needed to heat more than 17,800 homes in the US annually.
The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry has a carbon footprint larger than the forestry and paper industry. AstraZeneca aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions it directly produces by 98% by 2026, from a 2015 baseline. By the end of 2025, it aims to reduce absolute energy use and double energy productivity compared to 2015. The company also plans to use 100% renewable energy for electricity and heat and maximize the transition to electric vehicles in their road fleet.
Executive Vice President of Global Operations and Information Technology, and Chief Sustainability Officer at AstraZeneca, Pam Cheng, stated that “Our innovative partnership with Vanguard Renewables in the US is an illustration of how we are collaborating at scale to deliver sustainable science and medicines, as part of the transition to net-zero health systems and a circular economy.”
According to Reuters, much of the global pharmaceutical and biotech industry has yet to set targets for reducing carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. AstraZeneca’s move to biogas will undoubtedly inspire other pharmaceutical companies to follow in their footsteps towards a sustainable future.