Our journey towards a more sustainable future


2021 was an exceptional year in many different respects. It was a year where the world’s leaders recognized their collective responsibility to protect the environment and address climate change at COP26.

Yet, it was also a year when scientists gave the world a 50-50 chance of exceeding the target of 1.5 degrees warming within the next five years. The call to better protect our planet is getting louder and momentum on action is increasing. This is not an easy challenge to meet and success depends on cleaning up our energy sources, making our cities and buildings more efficient and changing our own behaviors.

Science-led solutions will play a critical role in helping achieve a net zero future.

At Elsevier, we must continue to reduce our own carbon footprint, but we also have a role to ensure that science is heard and acted upon. The impact that we can have is significant and critical to the progress that is required.

Protecting the environment has been prioritized at both Elsevier and RELX, our parent company, for the past 15 years. We made a commitment to address climate change and become net zero for all emissions by 2040 at the latest – and launched an ambitious Climate Action program to accelerate efforts to decarbonize our business, and drive action on climate change in the communities we serve.

This report outlines the many contributions made by colleagues across Elsevier over the past year, and our ambition to do more.

Stuart Whayman
Managing Director, Academic Researchers and Librarians
Joint Executive Sponsor of Elsevier’s Climate Action program

To deliver our commitments we have established a Climate Action program. The strategic direction of the program is set by a steering committee of leaders across the company, and Climate Advisory Board of distinguished researchers helps guide our actions and decisions. Our climate program has three dedicated workstreams:

  • Emissions reduction: Gather and analyzing data that helps inform strategic decisions enabling us to achieve our net zero ambition by 2040.
  • Products and insights: Use our unique products and services to advocate and advance research and innovation. Identify where these drive climate action and align them with our net zero ambitions.
  • Our culture: Embed a sustainability mindset within our company culture. SUSTAIN, our employee network group, and local Green Teams develop resources and activities to bring sustainability to life in all its forms.
Over the past 12 months, our initial actions have seen us recognized by our peers as a company that is doing its part to combat climate change. We know we have more work to do. Along this journey, we will share our progress and learnings, and welcome constructive dialogue and ideas.

First IPA Sustainability Summit at Frankfurt BookFair in 2021: trade associations and publishers from across the supply chain came together to discuss opportunities and challenges we collectively must overcome to address climate.

First IPA Sustainability Summit at Frankfurt BookFair in 2021: trade associations and publishers from across the supply chain came together to discuss opportunities and challenges we collectively must overcome to address climate.

Being a responsible business

We recognize our responsibility to drive emission reductions across all areas of our business operations, including suppliers —empowering all to be sustainable in their everyday actions.

Since 2010, our parent company RELX has been working to reduce the environmental impact in important areas such as waste, paper and energy use.

In 2021, RELX held certification to the ISO 14001:2015 standard in 27 locations — 55% of RELX businesses by employee count. We are committed to increasing certification to cover the entire business by 2025.

Elsevier's Climate Action program supports RELX's science-based aligned target to reduce direct emissions by 46% for Scope 1 and Scope 2 by 2025 against a 2015 baseline, and is also working towards setting a Scope 3 target that will cover indirect emissions embedded in the value chain.

Our ability to collectively address the complex climate change challenge requires both bold action and a series of small changes, that enable everyone at Elsevier to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

Our employee network group SUSTAIN empowers all Elsevier colleagues to embed sustainability in their daily lives both at work and at home.

  • In 2021, the team created a week-long festival exploring sustainability topics in greater detail
  • The first Elsevier Climate Race involved 250 colleagues competing to make improvements towards a sustainable lifestyle. Together, 1500 specific actions were achieved
  • In February 2022, we planted the first trees with our charity partner Trees for All in the newly-founded “Elsevier Forest"

Advancing research and knowledge

We are committed to support the dialogue on climate change and its impacts though unique content, data, and products.

The drive to curb carbon emissions, it's essential to secure our future on this planet. Our research trends study Pathways to Net Zero: The impact of Clean Energy Research explores emerging trends and opportunities.

At the intersection of climate and health, the 2021 Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: code red for a healthy future was published, representing the views of 43 academic institutions and UN agencies.

In 2021 we launched over 20 new journals in topics related to sustainability, environmental science, renewable energy, and the energy transition. And in our books portfolio, Energy with Purpose seeks to publish content supporting energy transition, with 75% of our energy books already focused on renewable, nuclear and energy grids — with the aim to have all titles compliant by 2024.

One Earth, our flagship Cell Press sustainability journal takes a unique approach to understanding and addressing today’s environmental grand challenges, focusing on issues of socio-environmental importance.

Partnerships for action

Helping customers, the research community, policymakers and the public make critical decisions and take evidence-based action.

The Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD)-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World recognize the achievements of researchers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge. In 2022, the Awards celebrated six talented female scientists from Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Yemen, Guatemala and Nicaragua for their contributions to research that is helping to tackle climate change.

The Elsevier Foundation Chemistry for Climate Action Challenge supports chemistry research that plays a key role in addressing climate change in the Global South. In 2021, winning projects included a solution for turning coconut waste into building materials in Ghana, and an innovation to turn rice husks into biodegradable plastics in Vietnam.

The TWAS-Elsevier Foundation Women in Climate Action program established research grants for projects led by women scientists in the Global South addressing tangible problems in climate change through collaboration and interdisciplinary research.


Elsevier’s Climate Advisory Board convenes distinguished experts in the fields of climate research. By joining forces with the research community, Elsevier and the Advisory Board can make an impact by:

  • Advising on key actions and initiatives that together will deliver a net zero future covering aspects such as scope 1-3 emissions, knowledge transfer, collaborations, and data insights.
  • Identifying key challenges and exploring best practices that will help drive progress on climate change solutions in a complex and interdisciplinary environment
  • Influencing and advocating for science-based decisions and action needed to address the urgent climate emergency.
Our board members

Click on the picture above to learn more about our Climate Action Board.

Click on the picture above to learn more about our Climate Action Board.

To learn more about Climate Action at Elsevier: