Striking a path to net zero

6 June 2024

A 20-year energy reduction strategy helped Boston Scientific get ready to adopt net-zero targets under the Science Based Targets initiative and push forward on its decarbonisation journey alongside like-minded customers.

As organisations recognise the need to do their part to help confront climate change, the trend towards setting net-zero targets is growing. The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) aims to drive climate action by enabling corporations to set and validate science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets.

In 2022, Boston Scientific was one of the first in the Healthcare Equipment and Supplies sector to have net-zero, science-based scopes 1, 2 and 3 targets approved under the SBTi Net-Zero Standard,1 setting the company on a path towards net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

Today, over 5,000 businesses globally, across many industries, have set GHG emissions reduction targets grounded in climate science through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Setting a net-zero goal means that by mid-century Boston Scientific would aim not to produce more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than it removes. 

Companies such as Boston Scientific recognise that it also makes good business sense as their customers - hospitals and national health care systems, such as the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom - see the connection to patient health and are seeking their own path to decarbonisation, urging companies in their supply chains to make operations more sustainable. 

“It’s important our customers and suppliers understand we are on this journey together,” says Clare Brooke, commercial environmental, social and governance (ESG) senior manager at Boston Scientific for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. “We are each accountable for our impact on the environment as well as providing support and encouragement to each other to do better.”

“I regularly speak to customers in our region and there is a growing level of interest in collaborating to figure out our overlapping paths forward. Having science-based targets is one of the key elements in those conversations,” Brooke adds. 

The SBTi has established itself as the leading framework for companies that want to set scientifically supported GHG emissions reduction targets, says Brooke. The SBTi partners with other organisations including the United Nations Global Compact and CDP.2

Health care accounts for around 4% of global emissions,3 so significant moves towards decarbonisation for the sector could have a meaningful impact on reducing its contribution towards climate change. Given the inextricable link between planetary and human health, the motivation couldn’t be higher for the medical device sector.


The evolution of decarbonising

Ronan Coffey, facilities operational excellence lead at Boston Scientific, has been part of a team that helped drive the company to establishing the targets set under the SBTi and he explains that a lot of work was undertaken in the years before the targets were established.

“There was a significant evolution from 2000-2010 when we began setting high-level energy goals, to then putting a structure around our energy management, and then to setting a carbon neutrality goal back in 2017,4” says Coffey. “We started to see this was about more than energy, and that we needed to look more holistically at our wider GHG emissions.” 

The company’s next step on its journey to establishing its SBTi targets was exploring where the company’s emissions came from across its wider business operations. This work took a year to carry out and enabled the company to subsequently consider setting targets under the SBTi. 


A cross-supplier, cross-industry challenge 

Reaching net-zero targets is complex for a company with global operations, involving 20 key global locations, shipping 40 million products, and coordinating over 11,000 active direct and indirect suppliers. Having science-based targets will be essential to provide clarity and singularity of purpose to progressively and systematically reach climate goals.

For Boston Scientific, a large percentage of its GHG emissions come from the goods and services it purchases, meaning that working together and innovating with suppliers will be essential for it to successfully reduce its emissions.

Kristina Gulish, supplier diversity and sustainability leader, is working with a team engaging with suppliers to understand their environmental impact and to collaborate with them to help drive a reduction in emissions. “We first identified the largest suppliers we work with globally and could see that a small number of them accounted for 80% of our scope 3 emissions,1 which come from our supply chain, not under our direct control,” says Gulish. “The good news is that some of these suppliers who make up the majority of our scope 3 carbon footprint have already signed up to their own science-based targets,” she adds. 

It was also apparent for Gulish and her team that the medical device industry would need to collaborate in the coming years to find industrywide solutions if it hopes to overcome the challenges that lie ahead on the road to net zero. Boston Scientific in EMEA is already working with industry peer groups such as the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition in the U.K. to share sustainable practices across the health care sector. 

Much work remains to be done over the coming years. “Setting targets is not enough, it’s the actions that follow that matter. Beyond a target, science-based goals serve as a catalyst for change at every level of the company and within our sector more broadly,” says Brooke. “Everyone needs to take responsibility to make meaningful progress towards a sustainable future that will ultimately be beneficial to patients and the planet.”   

Find out more how we are taking action to create a healthier planet in our Performance Report. 


1Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy. Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions (not included in scope 2) that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions.

2CDP (formally known as Carbon Disclosure Project) CDP is a not-for-profit charity that runs a global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

3Source: 2019 World Economic Forum

4Carbon neutrality by 2030 for scopes 1 and 2 in all manufacturing and key distribution sites only.