Environment: Conducting business sustainably

At ICON, we recognise the fact that climate change poses significant threats to our operations, people, patients and communities. We are committed to improving our environmental performance across more than 100 locations in over 50 countries with transparent sustainability strategies that consider our environmental impacts in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy use, waste generation, procurement-related activities and more.

In 2024, ICON submitted a near-term target and also a long-term company-wide emission reduction target in line with science-based net zero to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). In submitting our science-based targets (SBTs) for validation, we have adapted how we organise and implement environmental initiatives. Our new strategy aligns with a mitigation hierarchy of Avoid, Reduce and Offset, which forms the roadmap for achieving our SBTs.

ICON will prioritise avoiding and reducing our negative effects on the environment, only offsetting the impacts of those activities that we can neither eliminate nor curtail. Our main areas of focus are to reduce our office footprint, minimise business travel and engage our suppliers in addressing environmental impacts spanning the supply chain.

In 2023, we continued reporting in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) as well as partnering with Carbon Trust to conduct a Scope 3 footprint analysis for 2021 and an SBT modelling exercise. 

Environmental targets

Reducing carbon emissions

We continually track, calculate and report our GHG footprint as part of our dedicated transparency around minimising our environmental impact. We apply the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard—the globally recognised corporate accounting and reporting benchmark for calculating carbon emissions. Carbon Trust provides annual verification of ICON’s Scopes 1 and 2 emissions data in accordance with ISO 14064-3. ICON’s combined Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions have decreased by 21.61% compared to the 2018 base year.

We currently track and report Scope 3 business travel data. We work to reduce Scope 3 emissions by taking an innovative approach to business meetings and travel. We encourage the use of teleconferencing and virtual meetings whenever possible. We have also embraced innovation to reduce emissions through remote patient monitoring and decentralised clinical trials. While there has been an increase in our Scope 3 business travel emissions from 2022 to 2023 amid the resumption of normal business operations, we remain 22% below our 2018 pre-COVID emissions. Additionally, our business operations increased while our emissions intensity (tCO2e per million in revenue) decreased to 1.99 in 2023 from 2.04 in 2022 which is reflective of the emissions reduction initiatives throughout ICON.

Reducing energy consumption

In conjunction with our emission reduction efforts, we focus on minimising our energy use, working to switch to 100% renewable energy sources by 2025 and to reduce our electricity consumption by 20% by 2030. We have made progress towards our goals — 81.54% of our electricity comes from renewable sources, with 62.33% (22,890 MWh) purchased with renewable energy credits (RECs) and 19.21% sourced through direct tariffs. So far, we have transitioned 12 of our locations to green power.

Engaging our supply chain

Mitigating our environmental impact in our value chain necessitates deep engagement with our suppliers. We require suppliers to follow our Global Supplier Code of Conduct, including a commitment to adhere to all applicable environmental regulations and laws. Suppliers must also abide by our expectations concerning the sustainable use of resources and waste management. We have partnered with CDP to begin calculating and assessing our suppliers’ carbon footprint, which in turn will allow us to track Scope 3 emissions for additional categories. In addition to CDP, ICON also asked select suppliers to submit a response to EcoVadis.

ICON participates in CDP on an annual basis. CDP is a globally recognised system that allows companies to measure and manage their environmental impacts. In 2023, our rating improved from C to B for our 2022 CDP Climate Change response. To view our response, visit the CDP website.

Engaging employees on sustainability

ICON would be unable to reach our sustainability targets without the passion, partnership and engagement of our employees. Team members worldwide participate in our Green Champion Network (GCN), transforming our commitments into actions by finding opportunities for awareness, education and change locally.

A highlight of our GCN is Sustainability Month, which is celebrated in May each year. Throughout the month, employees globally take part in community-based charitable and educational activities and challenges, such as clothing drives, household item swaps and beach preservation events. In 2023, 44 locations participated in the event.

Engaging in Climate Fresk workshops

Since 2018, the Climate Fresk non-profit has worked to bring organisations and people on board with climate transition. The group conducts workshops informed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports to facilitate the rapid growth of climate education and a shared understanding of the challenges presented by climate change. As part of the 2023 Sustainability Month, several Climate Fresk workshops in Europe were hosted by ICON, online and in offices. In total, 12 group discussions attended by 90 colleagues were held across six countries.

Celebrating sustainability together

With the theme of Little Wonders, ICON’s 2023 sustainability photo contest zoomed in on the overlooked, highlighting the magic of Earth’s smallest inhabitants. In 2023, employees from 42 countries submitted over 1,000 entries.