People and Culture
Reducing our Footprint: It’s Time to Get More Ambitious
Joydeep Ganguly - June 07, 2021 - 5 min read
At Gilead, we talk about creating a healthier world – and that means not only focusing on our mission of delivering new medicines for people with serious illnesses, but doing so in a way that is socially responsible and environmentally sustainable.
When I joined Gilead in 2016, one of my first tasks was to deliver a master plan to support expansion of our campuses in California and around the world, including adding a number of labs and manufacturing sites. These kinds of facilities are energy-intensive, and the team set an ambitious goal: adding these new buildings while reducing our absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025, as compared to our 2016 baseline.
We have made excellent progress over the past four years – we’ve nearly doubled our footprint and are well on our way to exceeding our 25% greenhouse gas reduction goal. We’ve increased the number of green-certified buildings that we own or lease from fewer than 10 to 38. We’ve done this not just where it’s easy, but also for some of our most complex facilities. Our Foster City pilot lab and our new research building, two spaces that require significant resources to operate, are being indexed as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold. And we have green-certified buildings in geographies as diverse as Russia and China.
In addition, we’ve grown our renewable energy portfolio and on-site electricity generation and storage capabilities. All of this progress means that we are on track to not just meet but to exceed our ambition articulated in 2016 – and that means it is time to get more ambitious.
Now, I am very pleased to share that the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a collaboration between a number of non-governmental entities and some of the world’s largest companies, has reviewed and confirmed Gilead’s ambitious targets in doing our part to limit global warming to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. The initiative has set science-based targets with clear parameters that show companies how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
To reach the shared global goal in limiting global warming, science-based targets provide companies with a clearly defined path to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals. More than 700 companies have set individual science-based targets using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an international group that supplies the world’s most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standards, categorizing into three broad “scopes.” Companies are required to use these scopes in order for targets set to be recognized and validated by SBTi.
By 2030, we are committing to a 46% reduction in emissions that occur from sources owned or controlled by Gilead (Scope 1) and indirect emissions from consumption of purchased electricity, heat or steam (Scopes 2), as well as a 15% reduction in all other indirect emissions that occur in our value chain (Scope 3), from a 2019 baseline.
These are, once again, ambitious reduction targets – and to get there, we will need to continue to set the bar high.
We already run a bus program at our Foster City headquarters that provides transportation for our Bay Area employees to and from our headquarters. We are looking to convert our buses to electric vehicles. Around the world, as our leases turnover, we will ensure that we are operating in energy-efficient buildings and use more renewable energy sources where appropriate. We will continue to set the highest possible standards for the buildings we own and build, and we will continue to push our suppliers to prioritize sustainability, expanding our impact beyond our own walls.
What started out as a business decision – to minimize the environmental impact of our 2016 master plan – has become embedded in our culture. In addition to the work that we do at the corporate level to drive change, we have seen a growing number of grassroots initiatives, from a number of employee-driven changes to help make our labs greener to programs that our lab-based employees have established to recycle PPE during the pandemic.
We have one planet, with limited resources – and no alternative. When I started at Gilead five years ago, we had just 8,500 employees. Today, we have more than 13,500. As we get bigger we have an obligation to ensure that we are growing sustainably, so that as we bring new medicines forward for generations to come we are doing so in a way that truly allows people to lead healthier lives.