People’s health and the health of our environment are inextricably linked. That’s precisely why environmental sustainability is deeply connected to Cigna’s mission to improve the health, well-being, and peace of mind of those we serve.
As a global business with over 70,000 employees, it is our responsibility to minimize our impact and footprint on the environment while leading the world to a cleaner, more sustainable future. We believe environmental stewardship has an important health impact and also makes sound business sense.
Changes to climate affect Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) and can lead to poorer health outcomes. According to the World Health Organization, climate change has a direct impact on people’s access to clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter. Health costs from damage to our environment are estimated to reach up to $4 billion per year by 2030.
That’s why we’re proud to announce that Cigna is joining global RE100 pledge to transition to 100% renewable electricity usage by 2030. Through RE100, we will stand alongside over 340 global companies, including Adobe, Google, Deloitte, and Nike, to show leadership in renewable energy adoption in our operations and encourage suppliers and customers to take similar steps to reduce emissions by accelerating the shift to sustainable electricity.
“This global commitment represents a meaningful step for our company. It shows that we are taking responsibility for our impact on the environment, and creating a better, more sustainable future for the customers, clients, and communities we serve.” Kari Knight Stevens, vice president and chief counsel at Cigna
Started by The Climate Group, RE100 works with leading businesses around the world to switch the private sector’s electricity demand to renewables and to accelerate the transformation of the global energy market and the world’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Cigna will report electricity data annually to RE100, which will report on Cigna’s progress.
“We are proud to be joining this initiative in recognition of our efforts to move to 100% renewable electricity by 2030,” said Peter Barnett, global head of real estate at Cigna. “This is one way we are helping our overall decarbonization strategy and ensuring sustainable business growth.”
This commitment is just one example of the work we’re doing to protect our environment. Read on to learn about the ways Cigna is committed to building a sustainable future.
1. Setting and Reaching Ambitious Yet Achievable Environmental Goals
Beyond our new pledge with RE100, we have set the next generation of ambitious yet achievable goals that underscore our commitment to the environment. These goals include a 50% reduction of Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030 – which include direct emissions from the sources we own or control and indirect emissions from the generation of the energy we purchase and consume. By 2040, we aim to be fully carbon neutral for these emissions. We’ve also committed to a 30% reduction in water consumption per square foot of the properties we maintain, and we aim to achieve zero-waste for critical areas such as paper, plastic, and e-waste by 2030.
To achieve these goals, we’ve begun implementing energy-efficiency projects, optimizing our building operations, and minimizing waste generated across our enterprise. When renovating existing spaces or building new spaces, we prioritize creating collaborative and productive green-built environments. For example, we prioritize LEED certified buildings as recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council and include “green leasing” language wherever possible. Additionally, we prioritize repurposing existing furnishings to diverting at least 95% of office waste from landfills. We continue to explore a variety of options to help with our goals, including onsite and off-site energy generation, power purchase agreements, and green energy credit purchase programs.
We have already made significant steps forward on a number of these projects and initiatives. One example is the successful decarbonization of our most energy-intensive operation at our largest data center in Connecticut – we recently signed a utility contract to ensure the use of 100% green, renewable energy to power this site. Another example is our specialty recycling program at Cigna’s four pharmaceutical fulfilment centers, which diverts plastic pill bottles and other materials from landfills. Through this program, we were able to recycle nearly 1,000 tons of pill bottles, over 800 tons of cardboard, and over 3,000 wooden pallets. The plastic from the pill bottles will be used to manufacture post-consumer recycled goods such as park benches, composite lumber, and mulch.
And at our largest warehouse in Ohio, we implemented special machinery that helps compact containers used for temperature control of sensitive drugs into logs that take 1/50th of the space. This reduces the number of pick-ups needed from the warehouse and drop-offs to the recycling facility, eliminating the need to drive more than 600 miles each year. These are just a few examples of ways our ambitious goals lay the groundwork for progress, and are already netting positive results.
2. Innovations in Digital Health and our Global Footprint
Digital health technology can help us all reduce our carbon footprint. By replacing an in-person visit with virtual care, the patient can eliminate a drive to the doctor’s office and opt for a wholly digital experience for certain health episodes, without the need for paper records. Additionally, by increasing the convenience and ease-of-access for preventive care visits, we can reduce overall reliance on emergency-room visits and ambulatory care by catching symptoms and conditions earlier – again reducing our impact on the environment.
And adoption of digital health is growing at an impressive rate. Recent studies show that 76% of people are interested in using telehealth, compared with just 11% who used telehealth in 2019. Pre-pandemic, less than 2% [PDF] of outpatient behavioral health and medical claims were for virtual visits. Given the recent widespread adoption of virtual health, it is still too early to know the true potential decrease in carbon emissions from virtual care and telemedicine, however, previous studies have found that virtual care can reduce the footprint of a medical appointment by up to 70 times compared with in-person visits.
We are proud to lead the charge toward digital health and virtual care with the integration of MDLIVE, an Evernorth company offering convenient and affordable virtual health care services, and a number of investments and innovative partnerships with digital health startups through Cigna Ventures. We are committed to providing our customers, clients, and communities with digital tools that make health care more affordable, convenient, and seamless – and help reduce our impact on the environment.
3. Community Impact, Climate Resilience, and Advocacy
Purpose drives everything we do at Cigna, and we seek any opportunity to use our global initiatives to drive a local impact. One example is our partnership with the environmental firm Green Standards. As part of our commitment to divert waste from landfills, we partnered with Green Standards to help redirect office furnishings and supplies that were headed for the landfill back into communities in need. Through the partnership, we were able to make donations to organizations like Bridging, a Minnesota nonprofit that provides donated furniture and household goods to families and individuals transitioning out of homelessness.
Community resilience in regard to climate change is also top of mind when it comes to our sustainability efforts. We understand that climate change and environmental risk poses unique challenges to clients and communities in the form of extreme weather events and other emergencies – specifically to people’s health and public health systems. We maintain an online Disaster Resource Center for first responders, health plan customers, and employer clients. This resource is continually updated by our Employee Assistance Consultant team, which has deep knowledge of our provider network and can make real-time updates to help people in need.
We also support customers during extreme weather events through our Customer Disaster Response Program, which offers access to trained clinicians through our Employee Assistance Program, onsite critical incident support, and flexibility to make temporary policy changes, such as waiving various medical requirements, refilling prescriptions, and expanding our help line to proactively address customer service issues and provide personal assistance and support for all affected by a disaster. In addition to directly supporting our customers through these resources, the Cigna Foundation utilizes charitable contributions and partnerships with credible, leading disaster relief organizations to support communities impacted by extreme weather events.
As a global company, we recognize we have an important role to play in advancing the conversation on the link between climate change, human health, and the health of our planet. Cigna participates in and supports local, national, and international discussions about climate change – specifically the connection between the environment and human health – through engagement with our community partners, business partners, industry associations, and intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations Global Compact’s Action Platform on Climate Ambition.
Outside of our enterprise-level strategy to reduce emissions and waste, we also raise awareness about environmental stewardship among our workforce of over 70,000 employees across the world, which has led to employee-driven action. Employees have organized a number of community-oriented environmental projects, including an electric vehicle experience day, planting vegetable gardens, and building a production-scale aquaponics system on the grounds of our corporate headquarters. (Pictured on left: Cigna employees tending to the vegetable garden at our corporate headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut.)
Tying it All Together: Our Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance Framework
At Cigna, our environmental, social, and governance (ESG) approach underscores our mission to improve the health, well-being, and peace of mind of those we serve. Cigna is proud to have been recognized as a leader in our industry for excellence in corporate sustainability leadership for five consecutive years by the Dow Jones Sustainability index for our ESG efforts, and by 3BL Media on their 2022 100 Best Corporate Citizens list for the eighth consecutive year. Cigna Connects, our broader ESG framework, is structured around four pillars – Healthy Environment, Healthy Society, Healthy Workforce, and Healthy Company. We drive action through this framework to demonstrate our commitment to serving as a leader and steward of a well-functioning ecosystem of health because it is the backbone of society.
Through our Healthy Environment pillar, we strive to identify new efficiencies and make strategic investments that reduce our environmental impacts. We believe responsible environmental stewardship can improve health and well-being. While we know there is more work to do, we are proud of the progress we’ve made, and we are committed to continuing to do our part to build a healthier, more sustainable, and inclusive world.
Environmental Sustainability at Cigna
Our focus on environmental sustainability is grounded in the important connection between the health of the planet and the health of people.