Why Roche’s approach to climate change is working

After treatment, our wastewater meets the requirements to be discharged into rivers and lakes.

“It is our passionate belief that it is the right thing to do.” Thomas Wolf, Roche’s Chief Environmental Protection Officer, is talking about the company’s approach to climate change mitigation.

"Climate change is the most pressing environmental issue on this planet,” Wolf continues. “As a global company, we feel we have no choice but to act. We are very satisfied with the progress we have made in recent years and the award is a reflection of this.”  

Roche has again been awarded an “A” for its actions and strategies in response to climate change at a global level by CDP (formerly the “Carbon Disclosure Project”). As part of this award, Roche is also country leader in Switzerland and sector leader in Healthcare, Pharma & Biotech within the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). This well-regarded international not-for-profit organisation seeks to promote sustainable economies by reporting companies’ emission data.

A long-established commitment

Roche has been committed to mitigating climate change for many years, proactively seeking new, more sustainable technologies and processes and to minimise its impact on the environment.

From the outset, Roche has set itself ambitious but realistic targets. In 2005 the company set a long-term goal to reduce energy consumption per employee by approximately 50% and to substitute the remaining with energy from sustainable sources.

A more recent goal from 2014 was set to reduce the company’s environmental impact by 10% by 2019 and it is now well on track to achieving this as it aims to phase-out substances affecting the Ozone Layer and the climate altogether.

“We are delighted – but not surprised – by our results so far,” said Peter Schnurrenberger, Roche Group Chief SHE (Safety, Security, Health and Environmental Protection) Officer. “The main reason our approach is working is because climate change has been a focus for us for many years. We have a comprehensive, long-term programme in place, full commitment from our management, and a desire to keep pushing boundaries to improve further.”

Making it happen on a local level

“The innovators in this area are our technical operations colleagues, for example in facility management and engineering,” said Christopher Earl, a Roche SHE Manager and responsible for the CDP submission. “They constantly assess our performance to ensure that our operations are as energy efficient as possible, and keep coming up with new innovations to make further gains in efficiency.”

Roche Penzberg has gone the extra mile and earned several awards for innovation and environmental responsibility for its high-efficiency wastewater treatment plant. Wastewater is delivered to an on-site treatment plant, where sludge from wastewater treatment is anaerobically digested to produce biogas. This is burnt in a combined heat and power unit plant to produce electricity and heat which are then used on site.

Meanwhile, many Roche sites are sourcing energy from sustainable sources, such as solar power, which makes a major contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. About 80% of our largest Roche sites are obligated to develop and implement eco-balance action plans to encourage environmental innovation. The status is monitored at a Group level to evaluate progress against targets and to assess the need for further actions, says Umesh Goswami, Roche’s Energy Manager in North America.

Climate change will affect us all

The urgent need to focus on climate change was re-emphasised at the recent United Nations General Assembly meeting, highlighting the irreversible consequences to the planet if no one takes action now. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and are now more than 50 percent higher than their 1990 level, and global warming is causing long-lasting changes to the climate system.

“This is something that will affect us all and in particular future generations,” says Wolf. “We have a great opportunity right now to be the generation that turns this around. Of course, Roche is only one small part of this solution, but we will do all we can to do our part. Awards like this are not the reason we work so hard on climate change mitigation – but we hope it may inspire others to do the same.”