RPS Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) recognises the scale and importance of the climate and ecological emergency. It acknowledges that far from being simply an environmental issue, it is the most significant health threat that modern society has ever faced 1

If current trends in emissions and ecological breakdown are not reversed, it will fundamentally impact global public health and healthcare. 

Such consequences include:

  • Increased exposure to lethal heat, extreme adverse weather events and rising sea-levels
  • Increased incidence of cardiovascular, respiratory and infectious disease
  • Increased risk of malnutrition associated with famine and drought
  • Populations at risk of climate induced migration
  • Psychological distress and ill-health.

Pharmacists and the pharmacy team have a clear role to play in combating climate change. Medicines are the most widely deployed healthcare intervention and are responsible for 25% of the NHS’s carbon emissions2. Such emissions result from manufacture, procurement, transport, and at point of use. 

As individual practitioners, and collectively as a profession, we have an opportunity to offer clear leadership in this area. 

This is why we now join other leading professional health bodies and key stakeholders in recognising the significance of the climate and ecological emergency. We pledge to provide leadership to ensure that pharmacy, as a profession, is committed to decarbonisation and the promotion of environmental sustainability. 

We ask that the whole profession, regardless of sector and speciality, join us to make this a reality.

Our Commitments and Next Steps

To coincide with our declaration, we are also making a series of important commitments. These are informed by the engagement we have had with our members and are designed to produce real and tangible actions to combat climate change and ecological destruction.

These commitments represent the starting position for the RPS and additional measures will also be required.

We commit to demonstrating stringent environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) including:

  • Applying ESG principles to our investments and procurement policies. This will include investing in portfolios that commit to responsible investing and ensuring investments contribute to the full transition to a decarbonised environment and sustainable society
  • Continuing to build upon our sustainable approach to maintaining and running our buildings and facilities across all three nations3
  • Maintaining our zero-to-landfill organisational status though high standards of recycling, reducing general waste levels and by eliminating any single-use plastics on our sites.

We commit to leading the profession by:

  • Embedding consideration of sustainability within our working practices, future policies and decision-making
  • Promoting awareness of the climate and ecological emergency and identifying ways professional practice can develop to mitigate these risks
  • Working with our members and elected boards to develop a series of policy statements on how pharmacy can contribute to the decarbonisation and environmental sustainability agenda
  • Working with governments and the health services across England, Scotland, and Wales to deliver on the climate and ecological emergency agenda, ensuring that the profession’s role and expertise is fully recognised within national strategies and local plans
  • Collaborating with educational bodies, universities, professional bodies, royal colleges, and regulators to help raise awareness of pharmacy’s role in the climate and ecological emergency, and promote joint working across healthcare institutions.

We commit to supporting our members to:

  • Champion best practice that mitigates the negative impact of medicines and their management on the environment
  • Develop a community which will be a space for networking and sharing best practice for RPS members with an interest in sustainability as part of the new RPS Connect platform
  • Share and promoting best practice of pharmacy teams who are leading the way on sustainability
  • Use their trusted position to help inform our communities about sustainability within healthcare and climate change more widely.

RPS is committed to taking action to tackle the climate & ecological emergency. 

Sustainability was identified as a priority policy area by our national boards to take forward in our 2021 workplan. This promoted an in-depth programme of scoping Government policies and other resources, and input from experts from both within and outside pharmacy. 

Most importantly, we have had widespread and valuable feedback from our members. Our members have told us about the support they need and shared with us some incredible innovative work on sustainability that is already happening within pharmacy across Great Britain.

We recognise that the climate and ecological emergency is happening now. 

As an organisation we commit to doing more to help, including a transition to a more environmentally sustainable organisation, where we will actively consider the impact of our actions on the environment in all that we do. 

We will encourage others to join us on our journey; together we can make a difference. Let’s all act now.


1 Watts N et al (2020). The 2020 Report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: responding to converging crises. Available from: https://doi-org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32290-X (Accessed 18th June 2021)
2 NHS England and NHS Improvement (2020). Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service. Available from: delivering-a-net-zero-national-health-service.pdf (england.nhs.uk) (Accessed 18th June 2021)
3 The RPS already has: invested in solar panels for the London office; committed to mixed recycling, reducing general and food waste; changed some of their lighting to LED lights and utilises light sensors. It commits to continue to make such changes in their transition to be an environmentally sustainable organisation.