CPhI Festival of Pharma

CPhI calls on pharma companies to put sustainability at the top of their agenda

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags sustainability

The pandemic has required a rethink of how we do business: and CPhI Festival of Pharma is encouraging companies to prioritize sustainability efforts moving forward.

Momentum towards more sustainable solutions has been building over the last few years – think Greta Thunberg, climate strikes, David Attenborough, COP21 – and thus increasing scrutiny in the area.

And while the coronavirus pandemic may have grabbed the world’s attention in 2020, organizations like CPhI champion the opportunity to use the shake-up as a chance to reset the industry’s approach to the environment. For the pharma and biopharma industry, it’s a wide-reaching remit: covering everything from the carbon footprint of the supply chain to waste management.

“Challenging times call for great innovation,”​ notes CPhI. “Opportunities to accelerate market growth are hand-in-hand with social and environmental sustainability. Leading operations efficiency is one of the ways in which businesses can be cost-effective and contribute to a faster market recovery whilst building consumer loyalty.

“One of the biggest challenges a company faces when embracing sustainability is finding the right information and resources. Look out for consumer trends and market updates at CPhI.”

Here’s five areas pharmaceutical companies need to address when it comes to being more sustainable for the environment.

Carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions

The emission of greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide, methane and hydrofluorocarbons – needs to be addressed by pharmaceutical companies. With large amounts of energy being used in manufacturing operations, companies are turning to LEED certification to independently verify that a building’s design, construction, operations and maintenance are resource-efficient.

Case studies: ​AstraZeneca currently sources or generates 62% of total electricity from renewable sources. It has committed to have zero carbon emissions from its operations by 2025 and carbon negative value chain by 2030. In 2019, 25% of AstraZeneca’s vehicle fleet in Europe, North America and Japan was hybrid or electric: up from 7% the previous year.

AstraZeneca and Sanofi are among 262 companies from various industry sectors signed up to the RE100 initiative​ – pledging to achieve 100% renewable electricity.

Moderna’s Cambridge and Norwood facilities, meanwhile, are either LEED certified or designed for the certification. Other initiatives include green vehicles for travel between company locations; the use of green power; and carbon offsets.

The life-cycle of pharmaceutical products

Companies must consider the environmental impact of products right through from discovery to end-of-use options.

The covers a number of complex areas such as production and formulation; the supply chain for components; the packaging used; how products are distributed; and how unused products and packaging are disposed of.

Green chemistry

Chemistry is an integral part of the pharmaceutical business. Green chemistry seeks to minimise environmental impacts – while still being cost-effective.

The pharmaceutical industry has been moving towards the application of green chemistry principles, such as by introducing new production and analytical technologies; using greener solvent; and emphasizing catalysis and enzymatic chemistry.

As the industry shifts towards biotechnologies, fewer chemical steps are necessary – but fermentation processes have their own environmental impacts (such as biological chemical oxygen demand).

The ACS Green Chemistry Institute sets out its 12 principles of green chemistry here​. It also sets out the Process Mass Intensity (PMI) indicator to measure the mass of produced API compared to the mass of substrates, reagents, solvents and process water used in manufacture.

Case study: ​Sanofi has been focusing on optimizing solvent consumption:​ focusing on the three areas of process optimization; recycling (where possible) and incineration with energy recovery.

Pharmaceuticals in the environment (PIE)

Pharmaceuticals enter the environment primarily when excreted by patients. But waste from manufacture and formulation of active pharmaceutical ingredients is also a factor. The UN has identified pharmaceutical pollution as an emerging global priority under its Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management.

As limits of detection in environmental chemistry improve over time, more drugs and other chemicals are likely to be detected in ground waters and soils and sediments. If drugs are found to pollute and adversely impact the environment, implicated pharmaceutical companies face reputational damage and financial losses.

Case study:

AstraZeneca’s sustainability plan addresses the challenge presented by PIE, by demonstrating that 100% of API discharges from its own sites are demonstrated as safe; and with 97% of API discharges from globally managed direct suppliers also demonstrated as safe.  

Water stewardship

As with all manufacturing operations, pharmaceutical companies need to consume water responsibly. They also face challenges across the supply chain related to water scarcity and management, ranging from the sourcing of raw materials to use in manufacturing and research.

As GSK puts it in its Water Stewardship policy: Water stewardship goes beyond being an efficient water user and employing good waste water practices. It is about collaborating with key stakeholders including suppliers, governments, other businesses, non-governmental organisations and local communities around identifying and implementing the most effective water management policies.

"Water scarcity is greatly influenced by how water is conserved, used and distributed amongst communities and because water is a shared resource all users have to cooperate to ensure its use is sustainable.”

GSK reduced its direct water consumption of water (across its whole business) by more than 30% between 2000 and 2010; and is now taking these efforts into its supply chain and targeting suppliers and contract manufacturers. It estimates that around 80% of its value chain water footprint is associated with the raw materials it buys and the majority of that is associated with agriculture.

CPhI Festival of Pharma

Operating solely as an online event this year, CPhI champions an event with a much reduced carbon footprint.

With no travel required, attendees' carbon footprint can be virtually eliminated, while there’s no need to print badges or use lanyards. Notes can now be taken digitally at the desk rather than using paper. And CPhI suggests attendees ask companies about their sustainability agenda when meeting at the Festival of Pharma.

CPhI also suggests switching laptops to battery-saving mode; and turning them off when not using it.

In 2019 CPhI Worldwide received the ISO 20121 Sustainable Event Management System Certification, an international Standard recognising management, commitment and leadership, as well as stakeholder engagement for all aspects of sustainability through the whole supply chain. 

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