Next up: A climate change cure?

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Carbon emissions

Next up: A climate change cure?

To address its outsized environmental footprint, pharma is stepping up its initiatives to meet or exceed net zero standards for carbon emissions.

By Christiane Truelove • [email protected]

The pharmaceutical industry became the world’s hero with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, generating vaccines and therapeutics in record time that have reduced the risk of death and serious disease. As COVID-19 starts to settle into an endemic disease, though, the industry now has to find solutions for another problem affecting world health: its own greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to climate change.

While it’s a problem that many companies have been responding to for more than a decade – annual reports continue to elaborate in detail how these companies are striving to be greener – there is increased pressure on the industry to respond in a more unified manner.

And the industry’s carbon footprint is very large. A paper authored by  McMaster University’s Lotfi Belkhir and Ahmed Elmeligi in the March 2019 issue of  The Journal of Cleaner Production looked at the emissions of the top 15 pharmaceutical companies and compared them with the top 10 automotive companies. Their analysis reveals that the pharmaceutical industry is significantly more emission-intensive than the automotive industry.

To reach their conclusions, the authors examined the pharma industry over a four-year period from 2012 to 2015, which they say was the period of time for which reliable data was available for all of the companies of interest. Of the more than 200 companies representing the pharmaceutical market, the authors state that there were only 25 major pharma companies that reported their scope 1 and scope 2 emissions in 2015, and of those only 15 reported their emissions consistently from 2012.

According to the authors, in 2015 the pharmaceutical industry generated 52 million tons of CO2 compared with the automotive industry, which generated 46.4 million tons globally.

Linking CO2 generation to revenue, the authors calculate that for every million dollars earned, the pharmaceutical industry generated  48.55 tons of CO2. In comparison, the automotive industry generated 31.4 tons per million dollars in revenue.

Companies among the 15 studied also varied greatly in the amount of CO2 produced – and it wasn’t necessarily the largest companies producing the most emissions. For example, the emissions intensity of Eli Lilly, at 77.3 tons of CO2 per million in revenue, was 5.5 times greater than Roche at 14 tons of CO2 per million in revenue. And Procter & Gamble’s CO2 emissions were five times greater than Johnson & Johnson, even though the two companies generated the same level of revenue in 2015 and sold similar lines of products.

The biggest outlier was Bayer AG. The  company in 2015 reported emissions of 9.7 megatons of CO2 and revenue of $51.4 billion, which is an emission intensity of 189 tons of CO2 emissions per $1 million. 

While the authors say this intensity level is more than four times greater than the overall pharmaceutical sector, it is difficult to determine how much of the company’s carbon emissions stem from pharmaceutial manufacturing compared with agricultural product manufacturing – since Bayer reports and tracks its emission intensity in terms of tons of CO2  produced for each ton of manufactured goods. There is no differentiation between the items in that ton, whether it’s fertilizer or Aspirin.

First steps taken

While pharma has been acknowledging its greenhouse gas responsibility for years, there have been more recent, unified actions. In November at the United Nation’s climate change summit, COP27, CEOs from AstraZeneca, GSK, Merck KGaA, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Samsung Biologics, and Sanofi announced that they would be taking joint action to achieve near-term emissions reduction targets and accelerate the delivery of net zero health systems.

Executives say this marks the first time that the global health sector has come together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The companies formed the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) Health Systems Task Force, a public-private partnership that was launched at COP26, last year’s U.N. climate change summit.

“Climate change is the greatest global health threat of our time,” says Pascal Soriot, CEO, AstraZeneca, and champion of the SMI Health Systems Task Force. “During the pandemic, the healthcare sector stepped up and showed what can be achieved when we work together. Today, we act with the same urgency to tackle the climate crisis, with the collective commitments announced by the Sustainable Markets Initiative Health Systems Task Force setting a benchmark for others to drive action.”

Task force members say they are taking scalable action to collectively address emissions across supply chains, patient care pathways, and clinical trials. 

“This includes aligning on a set of common supplier standards to incentivize decarbonization efforts across the supply chain, and jointly pursuing renewable power purchase agreements and green transportation corridors,” executives say. “Task Force members will build an end-to-end care pathway emissions calculation standard and tool that allows stakeholders to measure and track emissions across the care pathway and will publish product-
level life cycle assessments (LCA) data to increase transparency on treatment emissions. In addition, a common framework to measure the emissions from clinical trials will be created.”

The task force specifically identified three areas where pharma could have the greatest positive impact in the sector: supply chains, patient care pathways, and clinical trials. Recognizing that supply chain emissions drive more than 50 percent of overall healthcare emissions, task force members emphasized their commitment to net zero emissions and will  align on a set of common supplier standards; switch to renewable power; jointly evaluate renewable power purchase agreements in China and India in 2023; explore green heat solutions by 2025 to accelerate the adoption of scalable technologies; and transition car fleets to zero-emission vehicles by 2030 and jointly explore green transportation corridors by 2025.

In the area of patient care, which accounts for 45 percent of overall healthcare emissions, the task force plans to  collaborate with stakeholders including health policy makers, regulators, payers, providers, healthcare professionals, and patient groups to raise awareness on the need and opportunity to decarbonize care pathways; build an end-to-end care pathway emissions calculation standard and tool for specific diseases that allows stakeholders to measure and track emissions across the care pathway and assess decarbonization strategies; and align on a common framework to perform LCAs, with private sector members also committed to publishing product-level LCA data across their product portfolio to increase transparency on treatment emissions.

To decarbonize clinical trials, the task force members are committing to leveraging digital health solutions. To achieve this, the pharma companies involved have agreed to commit to a common framework by 2023 and subsequently start to measure greenhouse gas emissions in Phase II and Phase III clinical trials. Companies aim to report Phase II and III trial emissions starting in 2025.

The companies will align new trials to their decarbonization pathway and set trial emissions reduction targets for 2030 at the latest, as well as incentivize clinical research organizations and clinical trial-related suppliers to commit to a framework to measure and reduce emissions, including through the use of digital solutions.

  Additionally, companies will target more than 90 percent of trials, starting in 2025, to include a review of how digital solutions can reduce emissions.

“The case for decarbonizing our health systems is clear, and failing to keep the 1.5°C goal alive will have irreversible impacts on global health,” stated Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. “Transitioning to low-carbon, climate-resilient health systems is essential for every country’s journey towards universal health coverage. The commitments announced demonstrate the power of public-private partnership to achieve positive and sustainable change for the health of people and the planet.”

U.S. healthcare companies also announced a collective stand on greenhouse gas emissions, led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at a June 2022 White House event. 

The delegation from the HHS to the United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) announced that more than 100 healthcare organizations have signed the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge to meet bold targets for emissions reduction and climate resilience. 

The delegation also described plans to collaborate with the National Health Service (NHS) of England on developing proposals for aligned procurement requirements as part of a larger update on progress and future plans.

“After meeting massive demands during the pandemic, health care organizations are again stepping up to the plate to address the threats of climate change,” stated HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The  organizations that signed the pledge are demonstrating to the health sector that climate smart investments are not only possible, but are becoming standard for the industry.”

On Earth Day 2022, the White House and HHS launched the Health Sector Climate Pledge, a voluntary commitment to climate resilience and emissions reduction that includes cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. 

In addition to the more than 100 healthcare organizations representing more than 800 hospitals signing the HHS pledge, pharma company signatories were AstraZeneca, Biogen, Chiesi Group, GSK, Pfizer, and Sanofi.

Experts at the pharma consultancy ZS say the industry announcements reflect what they are seeing as a general trend of collaboration in pharma, and within the supply chain. 

“From this recent trend that we’re seeing,  many of our clients are getting together to really try to figure out how to educate and inspire their supply chain,” says Jennifer Gold, ESG lead at ZS. “The supply chain is rather concentrated at times, and so I think they realize that they’re not going to meet their goals if their suppliers don’t meet the goals.”

According to Mike Martin, clinical development practice lead, ZS, pharma is particularly grappling with how to make clinical trials more efficient, particularly when trying to develop small batches of novel therapeutics. These particular drugs have more complex ways of manufacturing that can generate a lot more waste. “And then when you go to ship it out, it’s not like you have the universe of patients that are available,” Martin adds. “So you may ship [the drug] to a site in Germany, and that patient drops out of the study. But over in Paris, you may not have enough. So you always go to the minimum you can have, so there’s a lot of wasted shipping as well, just to connect those pieces.”

One solution to trying to make clinical trials greener are decentralized trials, Martin says. These types of trials came out of COVID-19 shutdowns, when companies were trying to keep their clinical research going.

“And just looking at, well, the sites that were running the studies, that takes up a lot of energy consumption, [and] that’s going to be a big part of that carbon footprint,” he says. “So if we reduce the amount of time for our reliance on those sites and go siteless, yes, it helps with ESG, but even before that, it could help with patient recruitment, speed of studies, overall cost, monitors, and everything else. So [reducing emissions] is sort of a nice added benefit to it.”

Pharma companies are able to plan more dynamically about how to handle scope 1 and scope 2 emissions – direct emissions and emissions from purchased energy. But Gold points out that it’s scope 3 emissions – defined as the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain – that pharma needs to get a better handle on.

“For any company, scope 3 is your biggest source of emissions,” Gold says. “And it’s often the smaller suppliers who have the hardest time, either in actually having sustainability targets or meeting those too late.”

What she finds encouraging in all of the recent pharma environmental commitments is how these companies are engaging their supply chain,. “There’s more collaboration, there’s more expectation-setting transparency,” Gold says. “It’s how can we all work together to really meet these goals. Pharma is continuing to push in the collaboration, and we’ve seen big improvements, when collaboration has been happening.”

Martin says there are several collaborations between pharma and nonprofits going on right now to figure out ways to accurately measure the environmental impact of clinical trials. One is the Pistoia Alliance’s Clinical Trial Environmental Impact Community, which has brought together major sponsors and contract research organizations to develop a dynamic model that compares the carbon footprint of a clinical trial in traditional, hybrid, and fully decentralized settings. 

“Hopefully these alliances end up working together and coming up with one common framework and not multiple versions,”  Martin says.

While he does not believe that emissions are a driving consideration in designing clinical trials at present – “I would be shocked if anybody is talking about carbon footprint right now” – Martin thinks this will change within the next few years. “That’ll be part of the readout before the head of clinical development signs off on that protocol,” he says.

Individual commitments

While the task force and HHS announcements mark a shift towards collective action by the industry, all of the top pharmaceutical companies have had sustainability and environmental programs for decades. And many of these companies have announced further plans.

In addition to signing the HHS pledge in June, Med Ad News Company of the Year Pfizer announced a commitment to further reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and aims to achieve the voluntary Net Zero Standard by 2040, 10 years earlier than the timeline described in the standard. As part of the commitment, Pfizer aims to decrease its GHG emissions by 95 percent and its value chain emissions by 90 percent from 2019 levels by 2040 through accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels and engaging suppliers to catalyze equivalent action. 

“The window is closing to minimize the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change, which affects the health of our planet and that of people around the world,” stated Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla. “With urgency of action increasing, we firmly believe that our commitment to accelerate decarbonization of our value chain and achieve the net zero standard – which aligns with Pfizer’s purpose and ESG priorities – can help drive positive change and build a healthier, more sustainable world.” 

Pfizer says it recognizes that bold partner action and innovation is necessary to develop alternative technologies to enable reliable generation of heat and steam production to meet the demand of Pfizer’s manufacturing, R&D, and commercial operations without fossil fuels. In addition, Pfizer plans to transition its fleet of vehicles to hybrid and electric alternates.

Pfizer leaders say the company’s commitment to further decarbonize builds on more than 20 years of environmental action, with the company delivering three generations of GHG reduction goals and realizing greater than a 60 percent reduction in company (Scope 1 & 2) emissions from 2000 to 2020. “Pfizer was the first in the pharmaceutical sector to have its GHG emission reduction goals recognized in 2015 by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a recognized leader in the global effort to mitigate the climate crisis,” managers state. 

In 2020, Pfizer set its previous GHG emission goal to become carbon neutral by 2030 and to reduce scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 46 percent by 2030 from a 2019 baseline, with the residual emissions addressed with verifiable carbon credits. 

“Pfizer continues to make progress and remains committed to reducing Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 46 percent by 2030 as an interim milestone toward its new Net-Zero 2040 goal,” executives say.

Lilly, although criticized for its emissions, has set some significant goals in tackling emissions and reducing its environmental footprint, outlined on a section of its website, “Minimizing our environmental impact.” According to executives, the company plans by 2030 to source 100 percent of its purchased electricity from renewable sources; become carbon neutral in its own operations (scope 1 and 2 emissions); and enhance tracking and reporting of emissions from its full value chain.

In managing waste, the company is continuing to explore ways to reduce, reuse, or recycle materials to make new products, as well as recovering energy from waste when possible, and treating waste to reduce toxicity and volume. “We only send waste to the landfill as a last resort or when legally required,” executives state. “Our goals are to achieve zero waste to landfills, and to ensure all plastic waste is repurposed for beneficial use.”

Its 2030 goals for waste are zero waste to landfill from routine operations; repurposing 100 percent of plastic waste for beneficial use, with at least 90 percent recycled or reused; and integrating sustainability-
focused design principles into product and packaging design processes.

Lilly is also focusing on its water use. Its 2030 goals are establishing and implementing water management plans for Lilly sites in water-stressed areas and conforming to plan; ensuring that 100 percent of Lilly sites meet predicted no-effect concentrations (PNEC) for pharmaceuticals in the environment; and ensuring appropriate controls are in place by Lilly contract manufacturers to prevent discharge of pharmaceuticals in wastewater above applicable PNEC values.

In addition, Lilly plans to address  the distinct environmental impacts of each phase of the product life cycle. The company wants to identify, analyze, and manage environmental issues as they arise; consider environmental factors in purchasing decisions; and use green chemistry, and other engineering innovations, to identify and reduce health, safety, and environmental hazards from new production processes where possible. 

The company also wants to look at its product transportation and warehousing practices and evaluate and influence the health, safety, and environmental performance of suppliers, contract operations, and alliances.

Johnson & Johnson has stated that by 2025, the company will source 100 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources. By 2030, it will achieve carbon neutrality for operations, going beyond its Science-Based Target to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 emissions 60 percent from 2016 levels. And by 2030, J&J plans to reduce absolute upstream value chain (scope 3) emissions 20 percent from 2016 levels. 

“Reaching this goal will deliver nearly 2.5 times the carbon footprint reduction compared to that of our own operations,” executives say. “Our operational emissions goal has been validated by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) as being consistent with the reductions required to keep global warming to 1.5°C, and our value chain (Scope 3) goal meets the SBTi’s criteria for ambitious value chain goals.”

In addition, the company is a signatory on the United Nations’  Race to Zero/Business Ambition for 1.5 campaign.

J&J is also looking at initiatives beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In April 2022, J&J announced a a new collaboration to advance health equity by building climate resilience in U.S. medical clinics that face floods, fires, heat waves, and more.

“Access to health care is a major determinant of health equity, with lesser access often falling along lines of race, ethnicity and income,” stated Paulette Frank, chief sustainability officer, Johnson & Johnson, in an in-house interview on Earth Day. “More than 40 percent of Americans live in counties that were hit by climate-
related extreme weather last year; the impacts fall disproportionately on under-
resourced communities. If a healthcare clinic has to close due to a climate-related weather event – a flood, fire, hurricane or heat wave, for example – people who rely on that clinic may have no other options for care when they need it most.”

The company  is looking to fortify the resilience of healthcare clinics serving those placed at increased risk to climate catastrophes through a new collaboration with Americares and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Climate Change, Health and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE, for short). The aim is to bolster both the operational resilience in clinics as well as the resilience of the healthcare workers so that when extreme weather events occur, people will still be able to get the health care they need. The goal is to support up to 150 medical clinics across the U.S. by 2025.

One of the drivers of this initiative are the studies showing that children, older populations, ethnic minorities, those with underlying health problems, and communities that have been historically excluded from access to health care are the ones whose health is affected the most by climate change. 

“In the U.S., where this clinic resilience work will initially be focused, this often includes communities of color,” Frank stated. “For example, climate change-induced extreme heat, which has already become substantially more common and severe, has placed Black Americans and Indigenous people at much higher risk of heat-related death than white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

While many companies, including Johnson & Johnson, are working on reducing their carbon footprints, “we also have a unique opportunity to work with our partners and have a positive impact beyond the things we source and produce – a positive impact on the climate resilience of healthcare clinics and the healthcare workforce who serve historically marginalized communities,” Frank says.

When it launched its Healthy Climate, Healthy Lives initiative in September 2020, Biogen claimed to be the first Fortune 500 company to commit to going beyond net zero to become fossil fuel free.

By 2040, Biogen plans to power operations entirely by renewable energy; transition its 2,000-plus fleet vehicles to battery electric vehicles; establish new green chemistry targets by 2021, integrating these principles into all stages of therapy development by 2023; and address fossil fuel-derived plastics by eliminating, minimizing, or closed-loop recycling all plastics across all business functions.

Biogen says in 2021, the company was 100 percent renewable electricity sustained, with facilities in 13 countries having an electric vehicle program and nine labs volunteering for a My Green Lab pilot to drive innovation with reduced environmental impact. In addressing plastics, the company  announced 2025 goals for sustainable packaging, including becoming PVC-free and phasing out plastic packing trays. 

The company’s 2040 goals for engaging employees and suppliers are assisting employees’ ability to go fossil fuel free in their homes; committing 80 percent of suppliers by spend to set science-based targets on climate by 2025; and committing 50 percent of suppliers by spend source to 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 90 percent of suppliers by 2040.

By the end of 2021, 300 Biogen employees had enrolled in renewable energy at home benefit and 711 employees engaged in ourIMPACT, a new climate-focused employee resource network. Among its suppliers, 24 percent committed to science-based targets and 16 percent committed to source 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Bristol Myers Squibb developed its worldwide environmental policy in 1983, and its Sustainability 2020 Goal for greenhouse gas emissions called for a 5 percent absolute reduction of its total emissions from the baseline year of 2015. The company reported at the end of 2021, it had reduced its scope 1 and scope 2 emissions by 10.4 percent through 2018, correlating to a reduction of total annual greenhouse gas emissions of about 42,600 metric tons.

The BMS plan includes the voluntary reporting of greenhouse gas emissions; funding energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction projects; implementing high efficiency and innovative technologies; the procurement of green/clean power for certain sites; selecting fleet vehicles to reduce fleet emissions; and voluntary participation in multi-stakeholder initiatives.

“Our Cruiserath, Ireland, facility utilizes 100 percent green power, and our Redwood City, Calif., and Munich, Germany, sites consume significant percentages of green power, relative to their annual electrical usage,” executives say. “In addition, our Munich, Germany office building is heated 100 percent by renewable geothermal energy. Several sites have switched from burning diesel and kerosene as their primary fuels, to natural gas, while photovoltaic systems are currently active in multiple facilities in New Jersey as well as our manufacturing site in Shanghai, China.”

The company maintains that these efforts have resulted in continual improvements in reducing its GHG emissions. 

At the beginning of 2021, Amgen announced a plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2027.  The company also pledged to reduce water use by 40 percent and waste disposed by 75 percent.

“As a science-based company with a mission to serve patients, we understand the profound impact that climate change is having on human health around the world,” said Robert A. Bradway, chairman and CEO.  “Our new commitments expand on our previous achievements and drive Amgen’s continued leadership on environmental sustainability that will benefit our patients, staff, shareholders, and communities.”

Since 2007, Amgen has implemented projects resulting in a 33 percent reduction in carbon emissions, a 30 percent reduction in water use, and a 28 percent reduction in waste. 

“These reductions were achieved even as the company increased production capacity, expanded our presence to more than 100 countries, and grew revenues significantly,” executives stated.

Amgen pledged to invest more than $200 million to achieve these 2027 environmental commitments, and managers add that they expect the investment “will help us to become not just more environmentally sustainable but also more flexible and productive, resulting in reductions in operating costs from such efficiencies over the same period.”

 The company will focus on the use of innovative technologies to significantly reduce carbon emissions from Amgen-owned operations, as well as on sourcing renewable energy. “For example, Amgen’s newest biomanufacturing plant in Singapore generates 70 percent less carbon than traditional biomanufacturing facilities,” executives say. The company has built a second such plant in Rhode Island.

“Where carbon emissions cannot be eliminated from its operations, Amgen will invest in sustainability projects that sequester or avoid greenhouse gas emissions,”  managers stated. “In addition, Amgen will engage with its suppliers to assist and encourage carbon reductions throughout its value chain.”

According to managers, Amgen’s 2027 environmental sustainability targets are designed to track the plan’s progress through deliberate efforts. Amgen established its targets using a baseline taken from performance in 2019, because the stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns from COVID-19 resulted in atypical results in 2020.

Amgen has created a portfolio of projects and initiatives to achieve the targeted reductions by 2027. “We track the results of these projects and initiatives as progress towards the reduction targets, counting results where reduction is confirmed through a formal measurement and verification process,” executives state. “We believe that this approach provides more thoughtful and transparent progress towards our targets.”

The company’s approach to achieving carbon neutrality has a primary focus on innovative and efficient technologies to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions from Amgen-owned operations and procurement of renewable energy. 

For operations in which carbon emissions cannot be eliminated, Amgen supports additional environmental and sustainability projects that sequester or avoid greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, Amgen is engaging with its partners to assist with and encourage carbon reductions throughout the value chain.

In July 2022, Novartis issued an update to its environmental sustainability strategy. Executives say the company has a holistic approach. “Environmental sustainability has been a central component of the Novartis strategy, with a strong focus on efficiency as the key tool in the early stages of development.”

The company has four broad strategic objectives: to deliver its net-zero, plastic neutrality, and water sustainability targets; focus on delivering sustainable products; transform the sustainability mindset across the organization; and collaborate with industry partners to influence change in the sector. 

Novartis has committed to net-zero greenhouse gases by 2040, and further strengthened its commitment to carbon neutrality, plastic neutrality, and water sustainability by 2030. “Our net-zero target covers all greenhouse gas emissions, in alignment with the SBTi net zero standard,” executives say.

“By 2025, we are committed to achieving carbon neutrality for our own operations (scope 1 and 2), which includes our factories, offices, labs, and owned vehicles,” executives say. “By 2030, we are committed to achieving full carbon neutrality across our value chain and by 2040 to achieve net zero.”

For scope 3 emissions, those of its partners and suppliers, “we are working with our suppliers to help them apply, where possible, the same high standards of environmental sustainability as we do,” executives say. “By 2025, we aim to include environmental sustainability criteria as part of supplier contracts. We are working with key suppliers to set baselines and targets for climate, waste, and water.”

The company is jointly developing sustainability roadmaps by focusing on product-specific action plans. “The expectation is that suppliers will report annually on progress and that remediation plans will be implemented by suppliers as needed,” managers state.

As for waste, the company has already achieved its 2025 target to reduce the amount sent for disposal by more than 50 percent compared with 2016, and by 2030 is committed to becoming plastic neutral.

Novartis revealed the results of several specific environmental actions. In April 2021, the company joined the RE100 initiative of the Climate Group and the CDP to accelerate its shift to 100 percent renewable electricity supply. As a result, six parks (solar and wind) will be built in Spain by three developers, with whom Novartis has virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs) contracts for periods between 10 and 15 years. The company expects that the VPPAs are expected to eliminate about 30 percent of its remaining scope 1 and 2 emissions, and achieve 100 percent carbon neutrality for electricity procured in Europe.

For its decade-old Omnitrope SurePal growth hormone pen and case, Novartis has proposed a new case design made entirely of recycled polypropylene. The new case design reduced the total carbon footprint by 75 percent compared to the current case, executives say, adding that the proposed design presents some clear advantages from a user perspective, by allowing users to see the contents of the case without opening it, an option that was favored by the company’s internal human factors engineering team.

In the production of metformin at its Strykow site, Novartis found that the usual production of 2,300 batches, with 4 tablet containers per batch – which to be cleaned after each batch – consumed 3,900 cubic meters of water per year. By adjusting the transportation process of tablets from single batch to multiple batches, they simultaneously reduced the number of used containers and the amount of water needed for cleaning from 3,900 cubic meters to 320 cubic meters per year. 

For its dry powder inhaler devices, Novartis did life cycle assessments (LCAs), a “cradle-to-grave” analysis technique to assess the environmental impact associated with all stages of a product’s life, from raw material extraction to processing, manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal. The study suggested that the Novartis dry powder inhalers have, on average, a carbon footprint of less than half compared to other published dry powder inhaler LCAs.

Novartis found that classical pressurized metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs) using HFC-134a as propellant gas can have an average carbon footprint of up to 50 times higher than the Novartis dry powder inhalers.

AbbVie reported in early 2022 that it has already made progress against its environmental sustainability targets. The company has an absolute target to reduce its scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 25 percent from a 2015 baseline by 2025 and 50 percent by 2035. AbbVie successfully achieved the 25 percent target reduction at the end of 2021.

The company has a target to increase purchased renewable electricity to 50 percent by 2025 and 100 percent by 2035. In 2021, AbbVie increased purchased renewable electricity to 32 percent against this target.

In June 2021, AbbVie committed to setting a 1.5°C Science Based Target. This target replaces the existing absolute GHG reduction targets.

The company is also examining its water use. AbbVie plans to establish absolute reduction goals to reduce its water withdrawal including non-contact cooling water; collect and analyze the quantity of its water intake and consumption as well as the quality of its water discharge at global manufacturing and research facilities; invest in new technologies to reduce water consumption; and evaluate water risk at its global manufacturing and research facilities annually to focus efforts on the portion of its total global water consumption that occurs in water-stressed areas.

On the waste front, AbbVie is establishing absolute reduction goals to reduce the amount of hazardous and nonhazardous waste generated, increasing its recycling rate, and aspiring to achieve zero waste to landfills by 2035.

The company is evaluating opportunities to reduce, reuse, and recycle materials, in addition to implementing initiatives that reduce waste generation; characterizing waste streams to determine waste classification and proper disposal methods; routinely auditing the procedures and practices of third-party waste management providers to ensure its waste is properly managed and disposed of; and ensuring that waste management training is provided to AbbVie employees and contract workers before they undertake any responsibility for hazardous waste management activities.

The company has also developed a Sustainable Packaging Program focused on Design for Recovery with Circular Economy principles in mind while also optimizing packaging solutions for carbon emissions during transportation and material innovation via supplier engagements.

In April 2021, Merck & Co. announced its goal to achieve carbon neutrality across its operations for scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025 and a 30 percent reduction in its scope 3 value chain emissions by 2030.

“Global efforts to combat climate change are essential to the health and sustainability of our planet,” said Robert Davis, president, Merck. “Our new climate action goals reflect our ongoing commitment to operating responsibly and will help us drive long-term sustainability for our business, society, and for the patients and communities we serve.”

Merck is also accelerating by 15 years its previous 2040 goal to source 100% renewable energy for its purchased electricity. Merck signed three new VPPAs for utility-scale energy projects based in Texas and Spain. These projects will address approximately 35 percent of Merck’s Scope 2 emissions by collectively adding 145 megawatts (MW) of solar and wind energy to the grid. Merck previously signed a U.S. wind VPPA in 2018, which has added 60 MW of new renewable energy capacity, while providing Merck with the associated renewable energy credits.

To achieve the 30 percent reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2030, Merck will continue to engage with its suppliers to reduce their emissions, promote opportunities for suppliers to source renewable energy, and use existing procurement and supply chain processes to drive additional strategies to decrease emissions.

“At Merck, we are focused on adopting innovative ways to reduce emissions, in our own operations and across our entire value chain,” said Jennifer Zachary, executive VP and general counsel, who is also responsible for the company’s global safety and environment function. “Our new VPPA agreements and ongoing engagement with suppliers reflect our responsible use of resources in every aspect of our work.”

Chris Truelove, Med Ad News Chris Truelove is contributing editor of Med Ad News and