Pharma Industry Emissions Outpace Automotive, Study Finds


The pharmaceutical industry is significantly more emission-intensive than the automotive industry, according to a new study from McMaster University (via Science Direct). The intensity of pharmaceutical emissions is about 55% higher than that of automotive, though there is a great level of variability in emissions between peers with comparable revenues, the report indicates.

Emission Intensity

The report found that the emissions intensity of pharmaceutical companies in 2015 was 48.55 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per million dollars, compared to the automotive sector’s 31.4 metric tons in the same year. The analysis was based on direct emissions generated by the companies’ operations and to the indirect emissions generated by the electricity purchased by these companies.

Total global emissions for pharma was about 52 megatonnes in 2015, compared to 46.4 generated by the automotive market, despite the fact that the pharma market is 28% smaller than automotive, per the study’s calculations.

Major Variations

Procter & Gamble’s CO2 emissions were five times greater than Johnson & Johnson’s in 2015, though the companies generated the same levels of revenue and sell similar lines of products; Eli Lilly emissions were 5.5 times greater than those from Roche, according to the report.

German company Bayer AG’s emission intensity appears to be more than four times greater than the overall pharmaceutical sector, but when looked at more closely, the study’s authors found that, while Bayer reports its financial revenues separately for each division, all divisions are reported together when it comes to emissions.

“This level of opacity makes it not only impossible to assess the true environmental performance of these kind of companies. It also raises questions about the sincerity of these companies’ strategies and actions in reducing their contribution to climate change,” wrote Lotfi Belkhir, Associate Professor & Chair of Eco-Entrepreneurship at McMaster University and one of the authors of the study.

Jennifer Hermes


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