Healthcare sustainability: How life sciences companies have prioritised decarbonisation
Predicting the future of healthcare and life sciences in 2025
10 minute read
Welcome to the ninth in our series of Life Sciences and Healthcare predictions 2025.
A healthcare sustainability prediction for 2025. Healthcare and life science organisations have adopted mitigation strategies to reduce their carbon footprint and improve sustainability. They prioritise suppliers that have zero-carbon landfill policies, recycle waste and water, and use sustainable materials in packaging and parts. They also save costs and improve sustainability: by using recyclable materials, choosing suppliers and equipment with lower carbon footprints, and reducing patient journeys via virtual models and remote monitoring.
The world in 2025
- Switching to renewable ‘green’ energy. By phasing out fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy, healthcare and life sciences organisations have reduced their carbon footprints.
- Switching from disposable to reusable instruments. This improves hospital handling/transportation costs, reduces the use of landfill sites, saves costs and improves sustainability. Healthcare sustainability starts to impact procurement, with organisations considering sustainable goals when buying medicines/medical equipment, and prioritise companies with shared values.
- Progressing to sustainable environmental goals. Life sciences and healthcare organisations use a system-level set of common metrics/disclosures (e.g. independent audits) to foster confidence and trust in their goals.
Conquered constraints in 2025
- Skills and talent. All life science and healthcare staff are trained in climate change, health and sustainability: to drive and implement sustainable actions across the health ecosystem. Companies whose leaders champion sustainability goals have had the most success in reducing their carbon footprint.
- Funding. Most countries have a ‘Green Bank’: investing in infrastructure projects that deliver net-zero goals (e.g. carbon capture, storage and green transportation systems). Private investors prioritise companies that openly report their progress towards environmental sustainability goals.
- Regulations. Regulatory standards have been introduced to measure and report on carbon emissions across the health ecosystem, with regulators evaluating progress regularly. ‘Ecolabelling’ of products and supplies with carbon footprint details informs consumer choice and drives industry practices.
- Data and interoperability. The health ecosystem has a set of decarbonisation targets and a global predictive simulation model forecasts the impact of different carbon reduction strategies. Sustainability indicators are reported nationally against aligned industry goals of a net-zero impact on climate.
Evidence of healthcare sustainability in 2020
- Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health (J&JCH) Healthy Lives Mission. J&JCH is investing $800m over the next 10 years to improve the health of people and the planet. By 2025, it expects to provide transparency for all its brands’ ingredients to inform consumer choice, and use 100% recyclable packaging. Other initiatives include making disposable wipes from plant-based, home-compostable fibres.
- Kaiser Permanente reaches a carbon neutral health system. In September, they became the first US health system to achieve carbon neutrality by making its buildings energy efficient, investing in sustainable business practices and buying carbon offsets.
How COVID-19 has accelerated this prediction
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the interrelationship between health and the environment. Many healthcare and life sciences organisations have adopted new way of engaging with clinicians and patients (e.g. by virtual consultations and virtual clinical trials) which has the potential to deliver long-term reductions in carbon emissions.
Conversely, other responses to the pandemic such as an increased need for cold-chain transportation of vaccines and demand for single-use technology and PPE could undermine decarbonisation goals.
Ultimately, the pandemic has not changed the fundamentals of the climate crisis, but helped galvanise global action (at government/organisational level) with some healthcare systems and large global life sciences companies adopting more ambitious sustainable, decarbonisation goals.
Reducing the environmental impact of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the UK
During the first wave of COVID-19, global demand for PPE put a strain on supply chains. The NHS procured huge volumes of PPE to maintain service delivery and sustain high-quality care. A part of the UK Make initiative is to establish domestic PPE manufacturing: developing a resilient supply chain with high quality, innovative and environmentally friendly products.
Our series of ten predictions for the life sciences and healthcare industry looks ahead to the year 2025 to help you see what’s coming and to keep your organisation moving forward.
Browse the predictions series, subscribe and listen to our podcast, and watch our webinar on demand to find out more.
If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in our predictions, please do contact one of our specialists listed below.
Director, UK Centre for Health Solutions
Partner, Life Sciences and Healthcare