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Climate change and why it matters to healthcare

Climate change and why it matters to healthcare

As the world’s most broadly based healthcare company, we have a duty to act

It’s pretty clear that there’s a direct link between climate change and health: in fact, according to the World Health Organization, climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity[1]. It affects the social and environmental determinants of health, like clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. Extreme heat leads to heat-related illnesses and cardiovascular failure; environmental degradation leads to forced migration and the mental and physical health issues that come with it; rising sea levels affect water quality, which leads to diseases such a cholera and leptospirosis; and air pollution leads to Asthma and cardiovascular disease[2]. And on it goes. According to The Lancet, 77% of healthcare professionals believe climate change will cause harm to their patients.[3]

Sobering facts. And they are, unfortunately, just the beginning. The direct cost to health, excluding costs in sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation, is estimated to reach between USD 2-4 billion/year by 2030[4]. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths each year.[5]

As a healthcare company, we believe that Johnson & Johnson exists to change the trajectory of health for humanity. Which means we need to play our part in looking after the health of the planet too. That’s why we partnered with Economist Impact on their webinar, Caring for the climate: The role of healthcare in driving climate action; to continue the conversation about the role of healthcare in driving climate action.

Alongside it being the right thing to do, acting on climate change is also good business sense. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that adopt environmental standards see a 16% increase in productivity[6]. It plays into recruitment too: taking a robust stance on the environment is key to attracting and retaining the best people – over half (53%) of the UK’s workforce say sustainability is an important factor in choosing a company to work for[7].

So, what are we doing about it? Firstly, we’re decarbonising our operations and value chain, and creating more sustainable products and solutions. Building on more than two decades of climate action, our current climate goals are accelerating the transition to 100% renewable electricity and carbon neutrality in our global operations. We’re also engaging with our suppliers to help reduce upstream emissions. Secondly, we’re using our voice and our partnerships to promote change. As the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare company, we can make a difference. Our progress will continue to be tracked via initiatives like the Health For Humanity goals[8], which are transparent, public-facing key performance indicators that show how well we’re doing when it comes to creating a sustainable future.

Human health depends on protecting our planet. It’s a challenging, often alarming prospect, but also one that brings opportunities to change and innovate. I’ll discuss some of our green initiatives in future posts, from the granular – our new, plant-based packaging, say – to larger systemic innovation: the upgrading of our supply chain, for example, and our use of renewable electricity. All of these plans will help us become more sustainable, and shift us closer to our ultimate goal of creating a future where disease is a thing of the past.


[3] [Last accessed April 2022]