A Healthier Tomorrow?

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology, August 2023, Volume 47, Issue 8

Only a significant joint effort across the supply chain will help to make healthcare more sustainable and reduce the impact of climate change on global health.

As Europe experiences extreme weather conditions—with sweltering temperatures in Southern areas, wildfires destroying parts of the Greek islands, and deadly storms affecting other parts of the region—it is becoming clear that more action needs to be taken to tackle climate change. For the pharmaceutical industry, tackling climate change is not just about cutting emissions but also about combatting the adverse effects on health that are linked to the warming world.

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that “climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity” and predicted that, between 2030 and 2050, it will cause approximately 250,000 extra deaths per year (1). Shortly after WHO’s report, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), held between 31 Oct. and 13 Nov. 2021, a public-private partnership—the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) Health Systems Task Force—was launched, aimed at speeding up the delivery of net zero healthcare (2).

Members of the Task Force, who include CEOs of large biopharmaceutical companies and public bodies, collaborated on industry commitments that will help support the transition to sustainable healthcare. A year later, during the COP27 meeting in 2022, the Task Force set out some core commitments, actions, and recommendations for industry that focused on three priority areas—“supply chain, patient care pathways decarbonization, and the use of digital innovation in clinical research” (2).

The joint action of the members involved in the Task Force has continued with a further scaling up of targets for suppliers in the industry to try and reach a net zero target. Most recently, Task Force members published an open letter stressing the criticality of action on climate change within the industry, which laid out minimum supplier targets for climate and sustainability across the value chain (3).


Ultimately, climate change is already impacting global health negatively and only a significant collaborative effort is going to reduce that effect. As the Task Force members wrote, “Healthcare supply chains must become greener, more efficient, and circular … Shifting to net zero, climate resilient health systems cannot be achieved in siloes. We must collaborate, across the sector and across borders, to secure a healthier tomorrow” (3).


1. WHO. Climate Change and Health. WHO.int, 30 Oct. 2021.
2. SMI. Health Systems Task Force. Sustainable-markets.org (accessed 2 Aug. 2023).
3. SMI. Open Letter on Supplier Targets from Members of the Sustainable Markets Initiative Health Systems Task Force. Sustainable-markets.org, 20 July 2023.

About the author

Felicity Thomas is the European/senior editor for Pharmaceutical Technology Group.

Article details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 35, No. 8
June 2023
Page: 6


When referring to this article, please cite it as Thomas, F. A Healthier Tomorrow? Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 2023 35 (8) 6.