Green Efforts also Good for Business

Abbott's 2020 Environmental Goals are ambitious – and they're helping the planet while reducing costs around the globe.

Sustainability|Jun.15, 2017

Sustainability at Abbott isn't a destination, but an ongoing journey. By focusing on the areas where business opportunities intersect with positive social impact, it's also an important way we strengthen the company.

Our ambitious 2020 Environmental Goals drive our efforts around the globe. These goals – highlighted in the newly released 2016 Global Sustainability Report – help us protect the planet while boosting efficiency and reducing costs.

We've identified three environmental priorities – and for each, have set goals for reducing our impact by 2020 (all compared to 2010 levels and adjusted for sales):

  • Reducing Carbon Emissions: A 40 percent decrease in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions associated with our business operations. Through 2016, we've reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent.
  • Conserving Water: A 30 percent reduction in total water intake. We've reduced our water use by 18 percent through 2016.
  • Reducing Waste: A 50 percent reduction in total waste. By the end of 2016, we reduced waste by 39 percent by reducing it at the source and identifying more opportunities for reuse.

Taken together, in 2016 we launched more than 130 environmental projects around the world to improve waste, water and energy efficiencies. These efforts also are delivering financial benefits to the business, with anticipated 2017 savings of more than 12 percent compared to the company's 2016 environmental expenses.

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

Michael Kearney is manufacturing shift lead at Abbott's diabetes care facility in Donegal, Ireland. He grew up on the Inishowen Peninsula, a picturesque part of Donegal located at the most northerly point of Ireland. Donegal's natural beauty, pictured above, has inspired National Geographic Traveller magazine to name it the No. 1 location to visit in 2017.

As an 11-year-old student, Kearney developed a love for the environment when he learned about recycling from a schoolteacher. On his family's farm, he encouraged neighbors, friends and family to begin sorting waste and to compost. He's carried this mindset with him to his work at Abbott.

"While it is not part of my core job description, everyone here knows they have a part to play in protecting the environment," he said. "I try to lead by example."

Thanks to Kearney's and his fellow employees' initiative, the Donegal facility received Abbott's "High Performance Award," which recognizes efforts that reduce materials used in production, deliver cost savings and reduce waste. In 2016, the facility team identified opportunities that reduced overall waste generated by 7 percent, and will increase the facility's waste recycling rate to 86 percent in 2017. A further reduction in waste volume also is anticipated in 2017.

"Reducing waste actually makes our day-to-day jobs easier," says Kearney, "and has benefits beyond work to our homes and community. Reducing waste saved our facility alone nearly US$11 million over five years. The small changes we're making add up to a big impact for Abbott and our environment."

Kearney also shares the Donegal facility's environmental best practices outside Abbott's walls. Drawing on his personal experience, he led a waste management awareness program to engage local elementary school students through fun and games. Students took a quiz to test their knowledge about disposing of common household waste through recycling and composting. Through this outreach program, students learned how to better manage waste – and protect their local environment.

Driving Results Across the Business

The work in Donegal is just one example of Abbott’s broader approach to protecting the environment. The 2016 Global Sustainability Report shares the broader story and many additional examples, including:

  • Zero Waste Facilities
    Materials sent for reuse now exceed the total waste the company generates globally. As a result, 29 Abbott sites now send zero waste to landfills.
  • Utility Cost Reduction
    We slashed utility costs at our global nutrition business in half, which also reduced energy demand and carbon emissions – achieving our four-year goal ahead of time.
  • LEED Certification
    LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is one of the most respected global benchmarks for environmental efficiency. Taken together, space at Abbott's 14 LEED-certified locations equals nearly 3 million square feet – which is slightly bigger than the landmark Empire State Building in New York City.

In recognition of this work and the company’s broader efforts to advance sustainability, Abbott was named the leading company in the Healthcare Equipment & Services industry group by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for the fourth consecutive year in 2016. This marks the 12th consecutive year DJSI recognized Abbott for sustainability leadership, with inclusion on both the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and North America Index. Abbott also achieved an A- on its CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) Climate Change score, placing the company in the "Leadership" Category.

Abbott is all about helping people live their best lives, with good health as the foundation. Helping to protect a healthy environment is an integral part of achieving this mission, while we strengthen our business, every day around the world. To learn more about Abbott’s sustainability initiatives, visit