Johnson & Johnson: Now working on Mother Nature’s Health as well.

A look at how large healthcare companies are dealing with climate change and its effects.


Johnson & Johnson (J&J) as one of the leading healthcare companies has committed to reduction of its global emissions footprint and is attempting to do so without use of carbon offsets. J&J’s CEO, Alex Gorsky, joined President Obama and other leaders to discuss the impacts large corporations can have on the environment [3].  J&J has already made significant strides by focusing on critical aspects of the business and implementing challenging goals both in the short and long term.  The question is whether the progress they have made is enough, and if they can continue to fund these expensive improvement projects while new taxes to medical technology manufacturers are unlikely to go away anytime soon [10].


Emissions Relative to Sales Revenue [2]


Current Focus

  • Buildings and Facilities: J&J has committed to a 20% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020 compared to its 2010 Baseline.  In 2012 it had already reached a 6.1% reduction of emissions against its baseline at the same time realizing a 3.4% increase in sales.  Management understands that committing to such rapid improvement presents a significant challenge and accordingly has allocated a $40 million annual budget for projects relating to energy and greenhouse gas emissions [1].


Facility Emissions Data from all J&J Sites over 50,000 square feet [1]

  • Elimination of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): J&J realizing the impacts CFCs can have on the ozone has eliminated CFCs and replaced these with a less harmful alternative (HCFCs) while continuing to look for even further improved technologies for its facilitates [2].
  • Transportation & Shipping: J&J set a Healthy Future 2015 goal to realize a 20% improvement in its fleet emissions. This is a significant amount considering its massive fleet of 28,000 owned or leased fleet of vehicles [1]. J&J manages 100 percent of shipments for its products within North America.  They have worked with their supply chain and logistics teams to make improvements outside of simply buying more fuel-efficient trucks.  Several projects have been undertaken to use multi-compartment trailers, improve freight consolidation, reduce dead miles, and engage in cross-shipper moves with other companies transporting similar products [1].


Employee Travel and Sales Fleet CO2 Emissions [1]

  • Shift to renewable energies: By far the boldest commitment the J&J team has made is to produce or procure 20% of electricity from clean/renewable sources by 2020 and aspire to be 100% renewable by 2050. This was announced in the Citizenship & Sustainability 2020 goals, amongst a broader set of initiatives including items such as having all new buildings be built to LEED standards [3,4].


Is this enough, and what should J&J Focus moving forward?

Most of the initiatives presented earlier place a huge cost burden to the business with no immediate benefits unlike other industries such as agriculture or automotive companies which must build their product around specific emissions standards.  J&J as a large healthcare company is in the spot light with multiple pressures both to price its products fairly and ethically and manufacture its goods in an environmentally friendly way.  This puts a lot of stress on a company that is competing with flourishing new companies stationed in countries with minimal IP enforcement and significantly fewer carbon regulations.  J&J must build into its products at conception a low-cost structure and a low carbon footprint design to stay competitive on all fronts.

  • Product life cycle CO2 impact: J&J should evaluate the total carbon emission of a product’s life starting from it being manufactured, transported, consumed, and finally ending when it is discarded. This involves analysis to improve packaging and reducing shipping resources needed, in addition to the logistical improvements already made to reduce shipping CO2 Johnson and Johnson has already started some work related to this involving renewable product packaging [8].
  • Supplying medical supplies to natural disaster sites: The J&J team should also think about how to supply medical supplies and first aid care to catastrophic natural disasters as their occurrence is increasing due to climate change.  Just in the past year there have been numerous floods and hurricanes displacing millions of people and injuring them in the process.
  • Predict new health trends: Unfortunately, with changing climates (specifically increasing temperatures and increased CO2 concentrations) there are several new health conditions which are increasing. For example in certain geographies air pollutants are increased with climate change and are escalating the risk of aggravating hearth and respiratory diseases [9].  This is an opportunity for J&J to build new technologies ahead of its competition by predicting what will happen in the years to come.

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Student comments on Johnson & Johnson: Now working on Mother Nature’s Health as well.

  1. We picked the same company! I really your idea of J&J is facing pressures of pricing its products fairly and ethically as well as manufacturing products in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way, and it should focus on Product life cycle CO2 impact. From my research, it seems that J&J is trying to apply green chemistry principles, improve sustainability of packaging, and reducing end-of-product-life impacts through recycling and reprocessing of used equipment.
    Furthermore, I like your point of supplying medical supplies to natural disaster sites, as the climate change brings more natural disasters. I totally agree that J&J should do this, which is align with our Caring mission and Credo, and can also benefit the company’s public image. As far as I know, in China, J&J is very active in supplying medical supplies and donating to natural disaster sites in recent years.

  2. Nice, a healthcare company to read about! Wow the goal to be 100% renewable by 2050 sounds quite ambitious. Depending how clean energy tech evolves over the next few decades, how will this affect the costs to produce all of J&J products? To me, this is a far tougher challenge than the other goal of having all their new buildings LEED certified.

    The product life cycle CO2 impact is an interesting concept. I recognize that the thought is to look at the broader picture of J&J’s impact on the environment. However, I wonder what happens when a company in-licenses technology. Would J&J have the corporate responsibility/obligation to factor the resources used during the development by the partner/acquired company?

    I absolutely agree that J&J can support victims of natural disasters, often exacerbated by climate change. While many healthcare companies can provide their products for disaster relief, J&J can have a even more significant impact given its product portfolio.

    On the topic of predicting new health trends, I imagine large companies like J&J have epidemiology groups who are working on predicting future burden of certain disease areas. Perhaps there is opportunity to share knowledge and collaborate with local authorities to better mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

  3. I’m glad to see non-energy sector companies are taking significant strides to limit their impacts on global climate change. However, I cannot help but wonder whether these changes are actually making a significant impact on global greenhouse gas emissions as a whole. Undeniably, J&J is a very large company which a significant global presence, but I wonder where their levels of pollution rank compared to 1) other major corporations and 2) the pollution levels of the worst polluters on earth (how bad are the worst polluters, 10x as bad as J&J, 100x, 1000x?). I don’t oppose corporations taking a meaningful stance to address their own emissions, but this whole initiative looks like an easy-win, feel good campaign to me.

    P.S. At Medtronic their “climate change initiative” was giving us cheap mugs so we didn’t use as many Styrofoam coffee cups. When pressed as to why they didn’t just switch to paper cups, we were told they feared the liability people accidentally getting burned by picking up an uninsulated coffee cup posed to the company. Sigh…

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