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Biogen pledges to stop using fossil fuels by 2040, commits $250 million to the effort

Biogen is headquartered in Cambridge.
Biogen is headquartered in Cambridge.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The life-sciences giant Biogen plans to invest $250 million in a 20-year initiative to eliminate fossil fuels from its operations by 2040, the company said Monday.

The move comes as more corporations are pledging money to combat climate change. Biogen’s Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives program will support its company-wide goal of eliminating the use of fossil fuels, which includes encouraging suppliers to become fossil fuel-free, transitioning its fleet of more than 1,500 vehicles to electric, and helping employees to stop using fossil fuels at home.

The company said it’s the first Fortune 500 company to make this type of commitment.

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The effort will also support new partnerships with institutions including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to identify achievable climate targets, advance research, and support underserved communities.

Biogen said it will spend 60 percent of the committed money on “green electrification” of its buildings and fleet, the integration of green chemistry processes, and the elimination of plastics. Nearly 30 percent will be dedicated to “research, advocacy, and action.” And more than 10 percent will go toward engaging employees in “innovation around difficult challenges” and at-home initiatives.

“Evidence shows that fossil fuel emissions play a direct role in the worsening of various health conditions, and emerging data suggests possible links to COVID-19 as well as brain health,” the company wrote in a news release. “It is Biogen’s objective to advance the science in this area.”

The Cambridge company said it achieved carbon neutrality in 2014, which means it makes no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It now plans to tackle fossil fuels — including oil, coal, and natural gas — which have contributed to almost 75 percent of human-caused emissions over the past two decades, according to the US Department of Energy.

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“We believe that it is time to take even greater action by implementing a well-defined program that examines how we live, how we do business and how we consume energy,” said Michel Vounatsos, the chief executive of Biogen, in a prepared statement. "By doing so, Biogen will play its part to address and impact dramatic health disparities among people around the world, as well as build a stronger, more sustainable future for all.”

The initiative’s funding will begin in 2021.

“I am not aware of any other company that has pledged to go fossil fuel free across their entire global operations,” said Bill Sisson, executive director of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development North America. “While others are taking significant steps to get to net zero carbon emissions, Biogen is taking the next step by eliminating fossil fuel use in all aspects of its business.”



Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.