The Link Between Climate and Health: We Chart a New Course

Published on: June 12, 2024


We now know that climate change is the biggest health threat we face. Climate risks are escalating faster than anticipated, causing the prevalence and severity of existing and emerging diseases to skyrocket ౼ ultimately, pushing healthcare systems around the world to the brink. While awareness of the environmental impact on human health is growing, a research gap hinders decision makers from designing effective strategies that will make a real difference.

The Link Between Planet Health and Human Health

At Sanofi, we understand the power of data ౼ the way that objective, concrete numbers can reinforce a message that needs to be heard, a story that needs to be told. Which is why we conducted an extensive internal research project to generate data and bridge gaps in existing research. We began by evaluating thousands of published reports before focusing on 200 studies meeting extremely stringent criteria. These studies demonstrated a clear link between environmental outcomes and our specific disease areas of interest. Why? To generate data needed to guide our initiatives and inform our strategy, to drive maximum and sustainable impact and to send a message to our own Sanofians, stakeholders, partners and beyond.

The research clear underscores that health of people and the planet are intrinsically linked. As an industry, we must forge collaborative, multi-sectoral partnerships to develop sustainable solutions for climate change and to minimize its impact on human health – for the sake of our planet and its people.

As a longtime industry pioneer and leader, Sanofi has the expertise and credibility to drive real change. Which is why we focused this study not only on external influences, but also on our portfolio and our pipeline, in order to generate the data we need to drive internal action and impact the way we make decisions.
Sandrine Bouttier-Stref

Sandrine Bouttier-Stref

Sanofi Head of Corporate Social Responsibility

Digging into the Details

Our review of published studies focused specifically on the relationship between climate change and health by analyzing the impact of environmental hazards on disease outcomes focusing on:

5 therapeutic areas

where Sanofi has the potential to have a significant impact: immunology, vector-borne and infectious diseases, pandemic pathogens, non-communicable chronic conditions and allergies.

The results were unmistakable: 70% of existing Sanofi indications and 78% of the R&D pipeline indications are impacted by environmental hazards. This data is now helping to inform our R&D practices, pipeline discussions and overall strategy. In particular, we are integrating our learnings into our comprehensive, holistic strategy aimed at tackling climate change's health challenges and strengthening healthcare ecosystems.

Developing Innovative Medicines and Vaccines

We were encouraged by internal study findings revealing that 84% of our R&D pipeline products (from phase 2 to registration) target diseases impacted by climate change factors. “This data solidifies our position at the forefront, actively tackling the health impacts of climate change. By integrating environmental considerations throughout our entire process, from research to patient care, we’ll continue to address these evolving health challenges,” says Bouttier- Stref.

Driving Coordinated Action

The climate crisis is not directly attributable to one action, community, or industry. And it can’t be solved by a single initiative or entity. To create a truly sustainable change and to change the trajectory of the impact on human health, we must break down silos and work collectively. By harnessing the power of cross sector partnerships and engaging on a global, regional, and local level, we are able to leverage strengths and expertise to drive innovative solutions to combat this global threat.

Given our global presence and the expertise we have cultivated over the years, Sanofi is in a unique position to rally experts together and encourage these bright minds from all around the world to unite and address this crisis together.

Sandrine Bouttier-Stref

Strengthening Healthcare Ecosystems for Sustainable Change

As the world grapples with climate change, its burden often falls heaviest on vulnerable communities least able to respond. Beyond the direct impacts, such as floods and droughts, indirect consequences can include access to healthy food, education and even basic healthcare. As a leading pharmaceutical company, we're working to ensure the entire global healthcare system is bracing for the impacts of climate change. 

We are convinced that new patient care pathways are necessary to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare services. Telemedicine is one opportunity to do so ౼ virtual medical appointments not only decarbonize the patient care pathway, but can also improve the care experience itself. Unfortunately, not all healthcare insurers reimburse telemedicine appointments. 

One of Sanofi’s key roles in strengthening healthcare ecosystems is our work with governments, ministers of health, and, in this instance, insurers,” says Bouttier-Stref. “In Cairo Egypt, for example, we're actively working with an entire ecosystem of players to make telemedicine appointments reimbursable – thereby transforming healthcare delivery for vulnerable populations.”

Mitigating Our Impact

Our fight against climate change starts with our Planet Care strategy, a multi-faceted approach to reducing CO2 emissions across our entire operation. This includes eco-design initiatives that minimize the environmental impact of our products throughout their lifecycle, from manufacturing to disposal. Additionally, Foundation S, Sanofi’s philanthropic organization, is focused on adaption initiatives to climate change for vulnerable communities.

As we look to the future, bolstered with the knowledge of the critical link between climate change and health, we will continue to reinforce our holistic approach to addressing future health impacts. At Sanofi, we are leaders in developing innovative treatments, driving collective action, strengthening healthcare ecosystems and mitigating our own impact. Paired with our global reach, disease expertise and the commitment of Sanofians around the world, we have the power and credibility to make a real difference in the future of our industry.