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Pharma’s path to Net Zero

Posted on May 3rd, 2022 by in Pharma R&D

Pharma is seldom top of mind when thinking about the most polluting industries, but pharmaceutical industry operations are in fact responsible for a significant portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – even rivaling industries that are far more associated with contributing to the problem. 

“The total global emissions of the pharma sector amounts to about 52 megatonnes of CO2e in 2015, more than the 46.4 megatonnes of CO2e generated by the automotive sector in the same year,” reported Lotfi Belkhir in The Conversation in 2019.

Although public awareness of this reality may be low, many leaders in pharma seem to understand that they need to be a part of the solution. More and more companies in the pharmaceutical and biotech world are making the pledge to become Net Zero by 2050, in line with the goal set by the UN – and some are dedicated to achieving this carbon neutrality even earlier.

Making the value chain carbon neutral

Novo Nordisk, for example, has committed to reaching net zero by 2045, with an interim target of zero CO2 emissions from operations and transport by 2030. To get there, they are focusing on their use of electricity, how they design their products and their suppliers, which are all major areas responsible for big pharma emissions.

“The pharma industry needs to target its entire value chain if it wants to make a real dent in reducing carbon emissions,” wrote Darcy Jimenez in a recent article in Pharmaceutical Technology. Some of the avenues suggested for pharmas to reduce their carbon footprint included:

  • Adopting a continuous manufacturing process in drug production (as opposed to batch manufacturing)
  • Getting energy from renewable sources
  • Investing in greener fuels for shipping
  • Using more eco-friendly and less wasteful forms of packaging

Though it can take a lot of work and upfront investment to make these changes (not to mention getting past the very human resistance to change in general), investing in green technology and processes is a win on all fronts. Not only is it good for the planet, but it tends to be very good for the bottom line as well. After all, less waste usually equals lower costs.

Sustainability is fueled by knowledge

Whether a pharmaceutical business is wondering what green manufacturing processes it should consider adopting, or which sustainable materials can be used in the building of a new facility, having reliable information at the ready is a must. Solutions like Knovel and ScienceDirect are valuable resources for learning about sustainable alternatives and keeping up with the latest research and vital data in this fast-moving area. 

Elsevier itself is committed to Net Zero goals. As CEO Kumsal Bayazit said in an announcement late last year, “We are proud to support the global efforts to mitigate climate change by rapidly reducing our direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020, we were net zero for our own direct emissions and for business travel. And we are holding ourselves accountable for ensuring this extends to all emissions, direct and indirect, by 2040.”

We are also looking forward to sharing some knowledge in our upcoming “Becoming Net Zero” webinar series on the topic, and we hope you will join us! To learn more and register for these webinars, follow the links below. Together, we can work towards a healthier and greener future!

May 12Carbon Capture and Storage – Materials Selection Considerations
Presentation by Gary Coates, Technical Manager for the Nickel Institute

June 28Materials needs for clean energy production
Presentation by Gary Coates, Technical Manager for the Nickel Institute

July 20The Now Imperative: Achieving Performance Excellence in the Energy Industry
Presentation by Michael Deighton, Vice President of Operations, at Kent

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