What is the pharmaceutical industry doing to achieve net-zero?

By Macarena López-Hidalgo, 7 March 2022

Global leaders discussed COP26 legacy during Pharma Sustainability Integrates event

 

COP26 brought together world leaders to agree on how to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the need to minimise our carbon footprint being critical. But how are the Life Science and Pharmaceutical industries responding months later? Last month, Life Science Integrates hosted its first Pharma Sustainability event to discuss COP26 implications for this industry and showcase what companies are currently doing.

 Global pharma leaders, research institutions, and the NHS joined an interesting debate that confirmed that it is indeed possible to achieve net-zero, but major changes must take place. Today we’re sharing key takeaways from the event, and what we can do to help enable progress. 

Measure, plan, act 

There is no exact road map to reduce pharmaceutical companies’ emissions, as each company operates differently. A contract manufacturing organisation's carbon footprint and its supply chain are not the same as a contract research organisation or a packaging and distribution firm working on clinical trials. The first step is then to define what sustainability means for the company, breaking down its production process and identifying its exact climate footprint. Then, it will be easier to establish climate objectives. Wyoming helps organisations to audit operations and identify candidates for digitalisation – a key enabler of emissions management.

But how to measure environmental impact? During the event, the importance of correct measuring was highlighted multiple times. Following this, Fiona Adshead, chair of the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, brought up a project developed by NHS Sustainable Development Unit: creating world-first guidance on measuring the carbon footprint of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. 

We often encounter organisations struggling with data and measurement – moving from manual collection and transcription (which can be slow and prone to error) to automated collection and quality checking.

Setting up the most effective environmental indicators, identifying areas of improvement and taking actions to reduce waste is the way to go. 

Pharmaceutical factory woman worker in protective clothing operating production line in sterile environment

Reduce costs and increase efficiency: a win-win

Achieving sustainability is all about increasing efficiency: do more with fewer resources and reduce costs along the way. There are tools with the potential to boost sustainable growth and improve performance. Yes, we are talking about digital innovation. There is a spectrum of readiness and activity across the sector with some manufacturers embracing the opportunity for innovation. We are often asked by client organisations to help speed up the use of digital tools and methods and an independent team can often be useful to get traction on ‘lighthouse’ projects and share successes across business units.

There are many ways we can use digital technology to reduce energy and water waste. For instance, a showcase presented pointed out the importance of reducing emissions in clinical trials, something achievable through digital innovation. A bespoke eco-design tool was developed with the ability to perform predictive modelling. A tool that could calculate the exact footprint of a completed clinical trial. Digital workflow tools, simulation tools and modelling tools are all fantastic ways to do more with software and avoid wasteful trial and error. Some of our case studies point to the successes organisations have achieved with such methods.

Advanced data models are particularly useful in manufacturing too, with real-time measurement and predictive tools. Being data-led can help detect and remediate errors and therefore improve efficiency. In this sense, our latest article explores more in-depth how digitalisation can help to improve sustainability. 

Need for collaboration 

Collaboration and transparency have been driving NHS. The need for collaboration is again mentioned as a key asset to innovate and accelerate the journey to net-zero. Many pharma organizations are now working together in pre-competitive collaboration to maximise opportunities and speed up digitalisation.

For instance: CPI, The Centre for Process Innovation, a technology innovation centre present at the conference is heavily involved in driving innovation for the sector. Examples such as Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (MMIC) point to collaboration that will yield benefits across the industry. Wyoming is an active partner in pre-competitive collaboration, working closely with academic and industrial partners to innovate through digital methods.

All things considered; the pharma industry is taking necessary steps towards net-zero. Indeed, companies must take a proactive approach to improve their sustainability efforts: measuring, planning and taking action. However, they are not alone, and many resources are now available to make things easier.

For more information on how data can help your organisation reduce its carbon footprint, contact us on info@wyoming-interactive.com and we would be more than happy to help.

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