In this special edition of the Frog Blog, we will take a closer look at the recent efforts of global life science companies to up their game in the area of environmental sustainability. In other words, can the biopharmaceutical industry continue to deliver innovative, new medicines that improve human health, while simultaneously doing the right things to enrich and restore planet health? (And why is this a “special edition”? Because it is personal to me!)

As many of you know, Dartfrog Change Consulting tries to walk the talk in regard to planet health by sharing a part of every revenue dollar with important environmental conservation non-profits such as the World Wildlife Fund. And as a lifelong learner, in August 2023, I will begin the next phase of my personal growth and maturation, as I pursue a master’s degree in Natural Resource Management & Sustainability at Virginia Tech. It is not certain where this new phase will take me, but it will, at a minimum, lead to an even deeper, more active, involvement in efforts to improve planet health, beyond just philanthropic donations. I will keep you posted, from time to time, as I gain new insights along the way in my personal journey.

I am simultaneously on a 16-month sojourn, currently traveling throughout the US and Canada, to experience first-hand the natural environmental wonders that are so plentiful and inspiring across this great land. From my home at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, to the majestic mountains of Montana, to the mighty Pacific Ocean along the California coast, and so many places in between, I have witnessed both the jaw dropping beauty we must fight to preserve, and the habitat decimation, that sadly, is already quite far along.

To be clear, this post isn’t about “climate change”. Unfortunately, this term has become one of the most politically charged and co-opted phrases of our lifetime. When it comes to the environment and planet health, it simply doesn’t matter whether you bleed red, blue, or purple. What matters is the reality of our situation, and no matter how you slice it, as I travel the country, I hear the same common themes from people representing all sides of the political spectrum. Here’s some of what I heard and saw, firsthand:

  1. High temperatures are melting our remaining glaciers at record paces everywhere I ventured. And the winter snows (in cold weather places) are yielding demonstrably smaller snow packs each year, and thus, smaller freshwater runoffs each spring. This then results in lower lake, river and stream levels, and, in human terms, reduced sources of viable natural drinking water.
  2. These higher temperatures recently yielded the hottest month (July 2023) ever recorded on our planet. Simultaneously, ocean temperature readings, have for the first time ever, soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit, in that same month, off the coast of Florida. That’s the temperature reading in most hot tubs!
  3. By June 27th of this year, Canada had already beaten its annual record for hectares of forests lost to wildfires.

So, what does this have to do with the life science industry? Well, I believe it is time for the largest, most innovative, global corporate citizens to step forward and take the lead, not just in solving the most difficult challenges in human health, but also leading the way in planet health too. And no longer just the bare minimum, in a nicely worded ESG report, as part of the annual obligation to shareholders, as has been the norm for too many years. But instead, going much further, simply because it is the right thing to do for our collective futures, and we are undisputed experts at how to innovate “health” at scale.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being an alumnus of some of the world’s most iconic corporations, such as Accenture, AstraZeneca, Walgreens, and Gilead Sciences. All great companies, filled with talented people, bold visions, and inspiring corporate missions. Are they perfect? Oh no, far from it. But each has recently redoubled their efforts to take steps toward a net zero footprint with strong goals for Scope 1 and 2 efficiencies by 2030 and beyond. My hope is that, for each of them, this is just the start. I truly expect more from these iconic industry leaders, and I firmly believe we will see it in the years to come. Shareholders, board members, employees, and customers will demand this type of leadership too. We will not “government regulate” our way out of the predicament of the current and future state of our planet’s health. And while each of us, as individuals “doing our part” for planet health, is a nice platitude, it doesn’t lead to rapid changes in the timeframes we face. It will be corporations, both large and small, who are our only real hope of scalable solutions within the short period of time remaining to make a lasting difference. One thing is for sure, human health will not matter, if there’s not a livable planet on which to survive and thrive.

So, what is YOUR life science company doing to improve or enhance planet health? Are you proud of their efforts, or are they lagging their competitors? Are they doing the minimum to simply produce a Corporate Social Responsibility report each year, or are they truly being bold in their efforts to do the right thing and setting aggressive goals, even when no one else is looking? After all, without planet health, those extra months and years of human health and extended life expectancy provided by innovative medicines, may just become trivial, in the bigger scheme of things.