This month, pharma giant GSK announced new environmental targets with a commitment to achieve a “net zero impact on climate and a net positive impact on nature” by 2030. This ambition is backed up by a series of targets across the company’s direct operations, supply chains and portfolio. Targets for achieving the net-zero emissions include a shift to electric vehicles, 100% renewable energy at all sites by 2025 and net zero across the full value chain, with only 20% of overall emissions anticipated to be offset. To achieve positive impact on nature, GSK has committed to all of its materials being sustainably sourced and deforestation-free, being water-neutral in water-stressed sites, and to create positive impact on biodiversity at all sites, among other goals. This includes activities such as establishing a biodiversity action plan at all GSK sites by 2025, and investing in programmes that improve habitats, protect species and improve soil or water quality.
Net-zero climate targets have become common parlance among companies looking to build sustainable business strategies towards 2030 (in fact, we have developed a tracker of those who have adopted such measures here). But the notion of “net positive on nature” is still in its relative infancy. Of course, this and net zero are deeply entwined. For instance, nature-based carbon offsets, such as reforestation, reduce carbon and contribute to biodiversity. But an explicit corporate focus on achieving positive impacts on nature has largely been overlooked. This is in part down to the lack of a clear methodology for measuring and accounting companies’ impact on the natural world, something the Science Based Targets Network is hoping to address. In the meantime, GSK’s new strategy makes a strong statement of rising ambition. No longer is it about only reducing impact and “treading more lightly”. Leaders such as GSK, are now committing to using their business to be a positive force on the environment.