BioPhorum survey shows the scale of industry’s indirect carbon emissions challenge

29 June 2022
Becky Tushingham
Senior Global Change Facilitator

Climate change is undeniable, and industry must do its part to reduce its collective impact on the environment. Many companies have committed to net-zero carbon goals for 2050 – but measuring emissions and progress accurately and consistently is incredibly challenging.

There are several categories of carbon emissions. Scope 1 and 2 look at the emissions associated with your own business operation. While Scope 3 relates to your indirect emissions, such as downstream transportation and delivery (both inbound and outbound), to recognize the wider responsibility industry has across the value chain.

Biopharmaceutical companies are trying to capture the data on their Scope 3 emissions. Unfortunately, there is no standard way of doing this, so they are estimating in different ways and using various data sources of varying validity.

To gain some insight into this area and further the discussion on consistency, BioPhorum members have been surveyed on how they capture their Scope 3 data, how they calculate emissions, their approaches to lifecycle assessments, and what assessment criteria are used to identify products to focus on.

After analyzing the survey responses, some of the key findings are:

  1. Most companies have an interim target for 2030 and a net-zero target for 2050 – but for the majority, Scope 3 emissions is still very exploratory
  2. Most plan to focus on Category 1 (Purchased goods and services), 4 (Upstream transportation and delivery) and 9 (Downstream transportation and delivery)
  3. Category 1 (Purchased goods and services) is a priority but also, one of the biggest unknowns
  4. Category 12 (End-of-life treatment of sold products​) is the biggest unknown and is difficult for suppliers due to the number of products, applications, and industries they serve
  5. It is challenging to find the best methodology for calculating emissions and many companies are not yet using software to do this.

The survey results will help the Scope 3 Emissions Workstream focus on the areas with the greatest impact on industry. It will now review and amend its draft charter and agree on the priority work areas, potential outputs, and associated timelines.

“As a sector, we need to work together to address the biggest sustainability barriers and opportunities facing us,” said Calum Love, Sustainability Engineer at Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Solutions. “When it comes to decarbonization, it is without doubt that Scope 3 reductions will be one of the biggest barriers we need to face. It is therefore imperative if we’re to tackle Scope 3 emissions that we set joint standards and work collaboratively, to allow the sector to compare apples with apples and best measure our performance to set realistic goals the sector can shoot for.”

The team will look at the options and issues around creating a framework for supplier engagement and measuring Scope 3 emissions. The aim will be to help you correctly categorize and measure your emissions, so you can start to put plans in place to reduce them.

Our environmental impact and influence beyond the operations of our businesses are where the biopharmaceutical industry has a wider responsibility. This work will allow us to look across the value chain to solve systemic challenges affecting us all.

If you would like to be part of this exciting Phorum to help measure and reduce indirect emissions across the industry, please get in touch with Becky Tushingham at

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