Current Edition

Step-by-step Sustainability

How Nanoform is Shaping a Greener Future for Pharma

Pharmaceutical companies are working to drive more positive outcomes for patients, but to truly benefit patients and the world, it is critical for the industry to examine and improve the environmental impact of their medicine’s value chain. A 2019 study1 estimates that the pharmaceutical industry emits 48.6 CO2 e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per million dollars. The impacts of climate change will pose a significant threat to global health,2 bringing about additional deaths from malnutrition, malaria, and heat stress; as such, it is the industry’s responsibility to safeguard human health and well-being by adopting a planet-centric approach to drug development and manufacturing. Many businesses within the sector have already begun working to increase the sustainability of their operations, with major pharmaceutical companies such as Merck3 and AstraZeneca4 adopting ambitious carbon neutrality targets for 2025 and 2030, respectively. When accelerating sustainability efforts across the pharmaceutical value chain, innovative technologies may hold the key to unlocking a greener future for the industry.

Sustainability in Pharmaceuticals

As with nearly every sector, the pharmaceutical industry is under significant pressure to manage sustainability risks.5 A range of issues face the sector including global greenhouse gas emissions and proper disposal of drugs and pharmaceutical waste. Therefore, the solutions must target every step of the product lifecycle.6 These include:

  • Research and development methods
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Logistical operations
  • End-use patient administration and disposal

Compared to other, more “industrial” sectors (such as mining or energy), the environmental impact of the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors has received relatively little attention. Studies1 have specifically pointed out the “dearth of peer-reviewed literature on pharma emissions”. This has often led to the incorrect assumption that the sector is a green one. In actuality, the data that exist show that the pharmaceutical industry has a 55% higher emission intensity than the automotive industry.1 Altogether, the healthcare sector accounts for nearly 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions – the equivalent of a small country.7

Business leaders have recognised the need to build a more sustainable pharmaceutical industry as well. According to Global Data, 43% of respondents to a poll of stakeholders within pharma cited the environment as the segment of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) that needs addressing the most.8