Bayer working to improve people's lives while reducing carbon footprint
Bayer aims to achieve a sustainable future through all its business activities with a vision of “Health for All, Hunger for None."
Shanghai Daily interviewed Matthias Berninger, Bayer’s senior vice president of public affairs, science and sustainability, to discuss recent progress and projects underway following the release of its annual Sustainability Report.
Q: A few days ago, Bayer published its Sustainability Report. What are Bayer's sustainability goals, and what is the latest progress on these goals? How does Bayer's business relate to these sustainability goals?
A: Contributing to sustainable development has become a core element of Bayer’s corporate strategy. For us, business strategy and sustainable development are inseparable. Bayer aims to achieve a sustainable future through our business activities. With our company’s vision, “Health for All, Hunger for None," we are increasingly focusing our activities on providing more people in all the regions of the world with access to health care and food, while also finding environmental protection solutions for the challenges presented by climate change.
Our sustainability goals focus on two key areas.
Access goals: As a leading company in the health and agricultural sectors, Bayer aims to serve customers and empower people to live better lives. By 2030, we aim to support 100 million smallholder farmers in low- and middle-income countries; provide 100 million women in low- and middle-income countries with access to family planning; and expand access to everyday health for 100 million people in underserved communities around the world.
Environmental goals: To protect the environment and achieve balance between production and protection, Bayer aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2030. In addition, Bayer aims to reduce agriculture’s carbon and environmental footprint.
In the summer of 2020, our climate protection targets were confirmed by the Science Based Targets initiative, and in the fall of 2020, we were one of just two German companies to receive an “A” rating from the global charity organization CDP in the areas of climate change and water security. These results show that our efforts are being acknowledged and validated. We are doing our part to achieve the maximum objective of the Paris Agreement.
Q: China aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. As a multinational company, please share your experience in reducing carbon emissions in other countries, as well as your suggestions for China.
A: Bayer's goal is to achieve climate neutrality for its self-operated business by 2030. To achieve this goal, energy-efficiency measures will be implemented, including the use of 100 percent renewable electricity and an internal carbon price of 100 euros (US$117) per metric ton across all Bayer operations. Between 2020 and 2030, we will be investing 500 million euros to improve energy efficiency in our plants. By 2030, the remaining emissions will be fully offset by purchasing certificates from verified climate protection projects.
Bayer is working to integrate the company's supply chain through consultations with suppliers and customers to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 12.3 percent along the entire value chain.
One example is dry-seeded rice that uses up to 30 percent less water, and comes with an added benefit of significantly less methane emissions. In corn, we are about to introduce short-statue corn that is more resilient against crop losses from extreme storms, requires less fertilizer, can be planted closer together and has deeper root systems that allow for removal and storage of atmospheric carbon in the soil.
This invention will increase yields by about 20 percent, and reduce the amount of land needed for one of the most important food crops in the world. By offering farmers access to such an innovation, we reduce their climate-related risks.
Q: Agriculture and the entire food chain are a major source of emissions. Please share your sustainability efforts in agriculture and how they serve to reduce emissions.
A: Bayer helps farmers cultivate more food for a growing population while reducing the environmental impact on agriculture. We have set additional targets to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint, since this currently accounts for about 25 percent of global emissions.
By 2030, we want to help lower greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of harvested produce in major agricultural markets by 30 percent. This applies to the most emissions-intensive crops in the regions where Bayer operates. For example, we will support farmers in the use of climate-friendly practices so they release less CO2 thanks to measures such as reduced plowing and the application of digital solutions in their fields.
Approximately 97 percent of the world’s farmers farm on less than 10 hectares of land. Many smallholder farmers lack access to the solutions they need to grow enough food to support their livelihoods and their communities. As a global leader in agriculture, we’re uniquely positioned to help.
Q: Bayer is a life sciences company, and please share the company's ideas and practices for pursuing sustainable development in health care.
A: In response to growing demands for better health, Bayer continues to introduce innovative drugs and provide high-quality products and services to improve people’s lives.
For sustainability, access to family planning is crucial. It empowers women and promotes gender equality, which in turn results in increased economic and social development and healthier societies overall.
According to the United Nations, more than 200 million women of reproductive age in low- and middle-income countries who want to avoid pregnancy don't use safe and effective family planning methods.
Another important goal is access to self-care solutions and health education. This can help patients prevent disease and offer health care to communities where self-care might be the only option.
Let me add a few examples: In 2007, Bayer and the National Health Commission jointly launched the "Go West" initiative in order to improve the capabilities of county-level hospital managers and physicians in China.
In the 13 years since the project was implemented, more than 300 training sessions have been completed in 29 provinces across China, covering more than 2,700 counties and training more than 78,000 health-care leaders, managers and professionals.
Recently, Bayer began working on a local sustainability initiative called “Access to Vitamins and Minerals,” aimed at providing nutritional products to pregnant women in China’s less-developed regions. The project is expected to be officially announced later this year.