Cambridge-based Biogen is launching a $250 million initiative to eliminate fossil fuels from its global operations by 2040. The multi-national biotech company will also invest in research to study air pollutants produced from the burning of oil, gas and coal.
“We’re pioneers in neuroscience,” says Nicole Murphy, Biogen’s Senior Vice President of Global Manufacturing and Technical Operations, “and now we’re pioneers in climate to improve public health.”
Murphy says the initiative will go beyond supplying green energy to Biogen’s facilities, and will include “how we use plastics, incorporating green chemistry into product life-cycle and even extending and engaging our suppliers.”
According to a company press release, the new “Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives” initiative is a continuation of a corporate social responsibility program started in 2014, when the company went carbon neutral.
Biogen claims the new plan will make it the first Fortune 500 company to commit to the fossil fuel-free goal.
The initiative will start in 2021 and require 90 percent of Biogen’s global network of suppliers to reduce their carbon emissions to zero by 2040. The company says it will transition its fleet of more than 1,500 vehicles to electric by 2025, as well as assist its 7,400 employees worldwide in eliminating their use of fossil fuels at home. The company will also place employees’ retirement funds in climate-friendly investments.
The company says about 60 percent of the $250 million will go to decarbonizing its buildings, integrating green chemistry in its labs and production facilities in North Carolina and Switzerland, and eliminating its use of plastic derived from fossil fuels.
Nearly 30 percent of the $250 million will be used for research and take policy actions to combat the health impacts of fossil fuel emissions. The press release notes that air pollutants claim the lives of 9 million people a year, “with the greatest toll on the most vulnerable.”
Harvard University and MIT are among the organizations that will conduct the Biogen-funded research.
“Effective responses to climate change are more urgent than ever,” says Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Interim Director of Harvard’s Center for Climate and Health and Global Environment (C-CHANGE). He calls Biogen’s investment a first-of–its-kind program, with a “goal of improving health and care delivery in marginalized communities.”
Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit that promotes corporate sustainability, praised the Biogen initiative. Anne Kelly, the organization’s vice president of government relations, called it “good for Massachusetts, vital for the planet and its people, and the right step for Biogen’s bottom line, too.”