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  • Blog: Johnson & Johnson on caring for the planet like our health depends on it

    One year on since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, and a year since Johnson & Johnson joined RE100 at Climate Week NYC 2015, Paulette Frank, Vice President, Environment, Health, Safety & Sustainability at Johnson & Johnson, explains why human health is still the biggest driver for the company's leadership on addressing climate change. 

    As I drove along an industrial stretch of Highway 95, my five-year-old son who was sitting in the backseat asked if the smoke coming out of the smokestacks he saw – “those tall things,” as he called them – made God cough. The truth was the smoke was steam, but I still marveled at the connection my son had just made between the health of people and the health of the planet. This made me wonder, if more people saw this connection, would we, as a society, do more to care for the planet, including our climate? Would more people take action to lower their own carbon footprint? Would there be more demand for things like renewable energy?

    At Johnson & Johnson, we believe the health of people and the health of the planet are inextricably linked and that a changing climate resulting in extreme weather, droughts, floods, air pollution and vector-borne diseases will ultimately impact human health and wellbeing. And, we’re not the only ones. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Center for Disease Control and the US Environmental Protection Agency all have websites dedicated to the human health effects of climate change. The World Health Organization even went so far as to declare climate change as one of the greatest threats to global health in the 21st century.

    As the world’s most broadly based healthcare company, this challenge inspires us to advocate and create demand for a low-carbon economy. We do this not only through our efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of our own facilities, but also by influencing our extended supply chain and collaborating with like-minded organizations.  

    Johnson & Johnson has had a formal energy management program for over 30 years. For more than a decade, we’ve been building clean and renewable energy systems on our properties – from cogeneration to solar, wind and geothermal – establishing our energy program from the ground up. We’ve significantly invested in over 70 renewable energy projects at our facilities, which today, equate to 7% of our global electricity usage.

    Realizing we needed to pick up the pace to meet our goal of powering our facilities with 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, we shifted gears and accelerated our progress by complementing our “build” strategy with a “buy” strategy. This approach resulted in the latest milestone in our clean energy journey of executing a long-term power purchase agreement with E.ON Climate and Renewables from their new 200MW wind farm in Texas. Johnson & Johnson has contracted usage of 100MW, which will generate electricity equivalent to 50% of our consumption in the U.S..

    This will equate to an approximate carbon dioxide savings of more than 3.7 million metric tons over the next 12 years, helping to meet our 2020 goal four years earlier than anticipated. In the spirit of continuing to pick up the pace, we have decided to increase our goal another 15% to producing or procuring 35% of our global electricity needs from renewable sources by the end of 2020.

    Beyond our four walls, there’s also work to be done. We know that our actions are one ripple in a large ocean. We need to work together with our suppliers and other organizations to turn that ripple into a tsunami of demand for renewable energy. This is why we’ve participated in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the CDP Supply Chain Program since its launch. This is why we partnered with the World Wildlife Fund, the World Resources Institute and an alliance that has grown to 51 corporations to launch the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers Principles.

    And, it is why we joined RE100 – a global campaign that brings together the world’s most influential companies – and made public our aspirations to achieve 100% renewable power and a science-based target of 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Joining this collaborative is one of the most impactful steps corporations can take to amplify their voice and the demand signal for renewable energy – no matter the size of the corporation.

    Climate change is a big problem that requires big solutions. No one person, no one company, no one government can do it alone. Instead, we must continue to create a global movement of people, companies and organizations all working together to care for our climate like our health depends on it. Because it does. Even a five-year-old knows that.  

    First published in USA Today Special Edition, September 19, 2016