Abbott on Protecting a Healthy Environment for Us All

Originally published at Abbott ranked No. 8 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.


We know that good health is the foundation for everything in life. There are clear connections between healthy people and the health of societies, economies and the planet.

And these connections impact us all. Growing challenges like climate change and air and water pollution endanger communities and threaten progress to create a healthier world.

We’ve long been focused on protecting the environment, and have taken action to reduce our environmental footprint since the first Earth Day in 1970. In the 50 years since then, our efforts have only grown in scope, most recently with our 2020 environmental goal results. And looking ahead, our 2030 Sustainability Plan is focused on building a healthier future for all, including protecting a healthy environment – as we build a stronger, more sustainable Abbott for years to come.


Protecting the Environment, Through a Single Product

Our work extends across our company, and our products. Just one example: our FreeStyle Libre technology. Beyond transforming the care of diabetes, FreeStyle Libre also demonstrates how we’re reducing our environmental impact in multiple ways:

  • Less plastic: We designed our new FreeStyle Libre 3 system, which received CE mark in Europe, to be more sustainable for the environment with a smaller, more discrete sensor and a one-piece applicator, reducing the total volume by more than 70%. The new sensor design uses 41% less plastic and requires 43% less carton paper than previous systems.
  • Zero waste production: One of the key sites for producing the FreeStyle Libre family of products in Witney, England, is also one of Abbott’s 36 sites that send zero waste to landfills. All waste — from the factory floor to the cafeteria — is recycled, reused, composted, or responsibly incinerated with much of the energy recaptured for future use.
  • Reduced emissions: The Witney site has reduced its absolute carbon emissions by nearly 20% over the past decade, even as production has significantly increased to accommodate demand.
  • Engaging consumers: We launched a pilot takeback program in the U.S. to allow people to send back used sensor kits for free, keeping them out of landfills.


A Decade of Progress: Our 2020 Results

Beyond efforts to smartly redesign our products, we’ve also been measuring and reducing our emissions, water use and waste around the world. And like many companies, we are at a transition point – measuring progress against the goals we set for 2020, while also setting our sights on 2030.

We are proud of the progress we made against our 2020 goals. In the last decade, we took on hundreds of projects to reduce our environmental impact – including 80 projects at 33 sites across 10 countries in 2020 alone. This work helped us deliver real results (all compared to 2010 baseline and normalized for sales):

  • Reduced carbon emissions by 50% (exceeding our goal of 40%)
  • Reduced water usage by 33% (exceeding our goal of 30%)
  • Reduced waste by 47% (nearly achieving our ambitious 50% target)

The impact of these results goes beyond protecting the environment. They also contribute to Abbott’s growth – by increasing our energy, water and waste efficiency, we’ve delivered cost savings as well. One example: we saved over $100 million in packaging since 2010, reinforcing the compelling business case for sustainability.


Looking Ahead to 2030

As we mark these important milestones, we’re already implementing our plan to deliver even more progress over the next decade.

Protecting a healthy environment is a crucial pillar of our 2030 Sustainability Plan. We’ve evolved our approach to tackle the massive challenges we all face – because we know that “business as usual” won’t get it done. For example, we’re now implementing a circular approach to manage waste and focusing efforts on sites that have higher water risk and impact. And we’re also expanding our efforts to suppliers and other organizations and communities.


Our 2030 plan outlines targets across 3 key areas:

1. Addressing climate change.
Climate change is a significant global issue, including its impacts on health. We’re working across our operations to address climate change by reducing our absolute carbon emissions and expanding our renewable energy use, and we’re also working with key carbon-intensive suppliers to reduce their carbon emissions as well.

2030 targets:

  • Reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 30% from the 2018 baseline by the end of 2030, consistent with the objectives of the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
  • Work with our key carbon-intensive suppliers to implement sustainable programs to reduce our Scope 3 carbon emissions.

2. Protecting Water Resources.
We work to sustainably manage water in our operations and in our work with others, with a focus on manufacturing sites in water-stressed areas. One example: Abbott recently became a member of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), a global collaboration of businesses and NGOs that contribute to the sustainability of local water resources through the adoption of a universal framework. Through AWS, we can engage communities on local water issues and collaborate with members to protect local water supplies.

2030 targets:

  • Achieve water stewardship certification at all high-water-impact manufacturing sites in water-stressed areas.
  • Implement accredited water stewardship management practices in more than 75% of all manufacturing sites operating in water-stressed areas.
  • Work with 50 key suppliers in high water-stressed areas to reduce water quality and quantity risks to Abbott and the community.

3. Reducing product packaging and waste.
We’re reducing the environmental impact of our product packaging, and minimizing waste in our operations through reuse and recycling methods. Beyond the tangible work for FreeStyle Libre, we’re working on similar efforts across our product portfolio and global operations.

2030 targets:

  • Address 50 million pounds of packaging through high-impact sustainable design programs that employ circularity principles through smart design and material selection, eliminate and reduce materials, improve the energy efficiency of Abbott’s products, and optimize packaging, pallet and truckload efficiency.
  • Reduce waste impacts using a circular economy approach to achieve and maintain at least a 90% waste diversion rate.
  • Engage with key suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of materials sent to Abbott that become waste in our operations, and develop and track supplier waste diversion initiatives.

Ambitious goals will require ambitious effort, new solutions and meaningful partnerships. We’re up to the challenge. It’s imperative to us all. For the health of our communities and our planet.

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