Sustainability in pharma is reshaping the industry as we know it.
Following the UN’s climate summit in 2021, 80% of the world’s largest pharmaceutical organisations have set clear targets to drive environmentally friendly development, manufacture, and distribution of pharmaceutical products.
Government funded health organisations are taking action too. In the UK, the NHS are working to restructure and future-proof their supply chain by ensuring they only work with sustainable companies.
Despite the influx of environmental commitments, it’s critical to remember that not all companies are prioritising them in the same way.
Recent research reveals huge variabilities in environmental transparency and performance in the pharmaceutical industry, with some organisations producing 5x more emissions than others.
Read on for more about:
- The importance of sustainability in pharma
- 5 leaders of sustainability in pharma
- Finding your next role in a sustainable organisation
The importance of sustainability in pharma
While the pharmaceutical industry is often self-assessed as ‘medium-impact’, recent research reveals that carbon and environmental performance, and transparency varies between organisations with some heavily outperforming others.
Despite this variability, the results show that the total pharmaceutical industry is more carbon-intensive and produces more emissions than the automotive industry.
Critical drivers of environmental damage include:
- Carbon emissions from drug manufacturing, logistics, as well as the production of power in drug manufacturing and building
- Active pharmaceutical ingredients (of which resist metabolic degradation) causing water pollution
- Hazardous substance generation in drug development
5 leaders of sustainability in pharma
Our short-list of organisations paving the way forward in environmentally friendly and sustainable practice includes those recognised by the ABPI, and those with clear strategies in place that align with UN’s COP26 climate summit commitments.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a principal partner of COP26 and provides expertise, commitment, and action to proactively address climate change.
This includes working with other organisations across life sciences in a collaborative effort to improve supply chain emissions in wider healthcare, through the promotion and development of lower-carbon medical treatments, and new sustainable models of care.
In November 2020, GSK detailed a comprehensive new set of environmental sustainability goals which will see the organisation achieving carbon net-zero, and nature net positive by 2030.
These goals include:
- A 20-year power purchase agreement from solar and wind farms for its Scotland manufacturing site, which currently drives 40% of UK CO2 emissions from manufacturing
- Funding for low-emission metered dose asthma inhalers, which if successful, could cut emissions from inhalers in the industry by 90%
- Investing in restoration projects to balance any impact that can’t be reduced
- Achieving net positive biodiversity at all manufacturing sites
Takeda has committed to achieving net-zero by 2040 and has already made significant headway with a 51% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions since 2016.
Areas targeted for sustainability include streamlining supply chains and reducing distribution networks. So far, supply chain and distribution changes have enabled Takeda to save the same amount of energy it would take to power 3,131 houses for an entire year. Takeda’s initiatives have also increased truckload fill from 60% to 85%, enabling the organisation to take 250 trucks off the road to curb pollution.
Other sustainability initiatives include:
- Green chemistry to create more environmentally sustainable manufacturing processes for molecules
- Strategy to drive a 5% reduction in water consumption by 2025
NovoNordisk, diabetes, obesity and chronic disease specialists, aim to reduce their environmental impact to zero by 2030.
This ambition will see a complete transformation in materials used across discovery, development, manufacture, and distribution including plastics, energy, water, waste, and carbon.
NovoNordisk currently runs all production on renewable energy and is negotiating with supply chain partners to establish a commitment to switch to renewable energy by 2030.
NovoNordisk’s strategy also includes a pen-recycling initiative that enables pre-filled injector pen users in the UK to recycle the plastics in the pen into items including chairs, and lamps to reduce the number of pens that end up in less sustainable waste management systems.
AstraZeneca has committed to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across their value chains by 2045 with the Science-Based Targets Initiative.
AstraZeneca’s strategy includes:
- Fuel and energy related activity and leased assets emission reduction
- Upstream transportation and distribution reduction
- Operational waste reduction
- Business travel and employee commuting reduction
- End-of-life treatment of sold products improvements
- Supply chain renegotiations to ensure that suppliers have science-based targets
Amgen has invested £200 million into their environmental strategy where they hope to achieve carbon neutrality, reduce water use by 40% and reduce total disposed waste by 75% by 2027.
Amgen’s environmental sustainability plan includes
- Adopting biomanufacturing technology to reduce carbon emissions
- Integrating on-site renewable energy sources
- Improving sustainability in research and process development
- Optimising sustainability in manufacturing, transportation, and distribution
- Engaging with suppliers to assist and encourage carbon reductions
- Investing in sustainability projects to offset unchangeable emissions
Finding your next role in a sustainable organisation
SRG Talent works alongside organisations across the pharmaceutical industry to place talented scientific and clinical experts in rewarding careers. We work with leading global organisations that are driving the future of sustainability and innovation in pharma.
About the author: Behruz Sheikh specialises in providing innovative solutions around talent to companies across the life sciences sector, with a strong focus on pharmaceuticals, medtech and biotech. Having established a strong network across the North of England across SMEs, start ups, and big pharma, he has provided a wide range of bespoke talent solutions to organisations from ad-hoc niche scientific searches to on-site RPO solutions. Behruz’s team specialise in placing a wide range of STEM roles spanning across bench to boardroom; typical roles include: Analytical Chemists, Microbiologists, Molecular Biologists, Formulation Chemists, Upstream Biotechnologist, Downstream Biotechnologist, GMP Quality Specialists up to Qualified Person, and commercial roles such as Project Managers and Business Development Managers.
Connect with Behruz on LinkedIn to learn more about our opportunities in the field.