AstraZeneca has expanded its global reforestation program with an enhanced commitment to plant over 200 million trees worldwide by the end of the decade, backed by $400 million of fresh investment.
The British pharmaceuticals giant last week unveiled plans for a host of new or expanded reforestation projects spanning over 247,000 acres worldwide across Brazil, India, Vietnam, Ghana and Rwanda, in a move aimed at supporting nature restoration and nature-based carbon removal.
The investment builds on the firm's AZ Forest initiative, first announced in 2020, through which it pledged to plant and maintain more than 50 million trees worldwide by the end of 2025 "in recognition of the strong connection between healthy people and a healthy planet."
Since then, the company claims to have planted more than 10.5 million trees encompassing around 300 tree species across Australia, Indonesia, Ghana, the U.K., the U.S. and France. The program includes some 470,000 trees planted in Scotland and England alongside Forestry England and Borders Forest Trust Scotland, it said.
But the recent announcement marks a four-fold increase on its original goal, with the company aiming to plant 200 million trees across six continents by 2030.
AstraZeneca said it would work with planting experts, local communities and governments to deliver natural forest restoration and agroforestry at scale.
We can mitigate the impacts of climate change and create economic and social value for local communities.
It said the reforestation drive would help create new skills and jobs in local communities, protect threatened and endangered species and improve public health, with all projects set to be audited and assessed by independent, third-party expects such as the European Forest Institute (EPI).
The commitment also supports AstraZeneca's targets to halve emissions across its entire global value chain by 2030 against 2019 levels, on the way to achieving net zero by 2045 at the latest, as certified by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
Under its SBTi goals, the firm is aiming to reduce its absolute Scopes 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent by 2045. The global reforestation program would then help to offset the roughly 10 percent of the company's remaining emissions by that date.
"We are taking a science-based approach, and AZ Forest will remove around 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over about 30 years," said Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's CEO.
"The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are damaging the planet and harming human health. Through AZ Forest, we are working with local communities and ecological experts to deliver reforestation at scale, as well as support biodiversity and sustain livelihoods."
Alongside the enhanced $400 million commitment, AstraZeneca also published a "first of its kind" science-based framework for delivering "sustainable, resilient and locally-appropriate" landscape regeneration, aimed at supporting circular bioeconomy value chains and biodiversity.
The company claims to have planted more than 10.5 million trees encompassing around 300 tree species.
Dubbed the CBA Principles for Regenerative Landscapes, the document has been developed in partnership with the EFI as well as the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA).
Speaking in an exclusive interview with BusinessGreen, AstraZeneca Chief Sustainability Officer Juliette White said the CBA Principles were designed to "drive consistent action" and align with global standards and best practice on reforestation.
"The Principle drive the choices that we make about projects and programs," White explained. "They drive a desire to make sure that we focus on local action, co-benefits and long-term stewardship. That's where we have seen, I suppose, some other organizations coming under criticism — that they've looked at the front-end, rather than the lifecycle."
CBA Chair Marc Palahí said forests were key to fighting climate change, enhancing biodiversity and "powering a circular bioeconomy that prospers in harmony with nature."
"Forests and trees are the backbone for life on our planet and the basis for human health and wellbeing," he said. "Through the design and delivery of public-private partnerships like AZ Forest, which are underpinned by a science-based and principles-led approach, we can mitigate the impacts of climate change and create economic and social value for local communities."
The AZ Forest program is also designed to support the World Economic Forum's public-private initiative, through which partners are aiming to collectively restore and grow 1 trillion trees by 2030 worldwide.