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The Pharmaceutical Supply Chain in the Age of Sustainability

The drive for sustainability has impacted every business in recent years and continues to place new demands on all aspects of the pharmaceuticals supply chain. The team at Recipe Design, a London-based consultancy who have worked in the industry for over 12 years, sees positive developments coming both from legislative pressures and the shifts in values of the customers and end users its clients aim to serve. Recipe Design COO Simon Browning and Sarah Sanders (Chief Strategy Officer) give their take on what is changing and what this means for the business going forward.

The COO on Meeting the New Expectations of Businesses as a Strategic Supplier

As a strategic design agency with decades of experience working with healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, we have always been set up to be compliant with the rigorous processes and policies that our clients demand from us as a supplier. In recent years, our client’s business objectives have shifted markedly towards ever more challenging sustainability goals, resulting in significant pressure on every part of the supply chain to contribute to positive change. The launch in 2015 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere) confirmed a new level of political will and we saw clients increasingly link their business plans to UN goals and KPIs – not only aligning them to legislative shifts but demonstrating a commitment to their own people that many found helped enhance engagement around ‘change for good’. Net zero objectives had become essential statements for any brand wanting to demonstrate market leadership – even if the detail in the plan was at times a little hazy. Seven years on, new levels of intent have translated into a whole host of policies and measures that we as small businesses have to get to grips with. As a relative minnow providing R&D support services (and not directly manufacturing components, drugs, or devices) we pride ourselves on our ability to remain agile and adapt to the changing needs of the businesses we serve (which span healthcare, pharma, and the consumer wellness space). As a key supplier to a number of companies in Pharma, we align to the foundational commitments of the PSCI (Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative) focusing on human rights, environmental sustainability, and doing business responsibly. As a small business, it hasn’t been easy, but in recent years we have introduced and reinforced policies that ensure we meet all required standards in ethics, labour, health & safety, environment, and management systems. Today, we are expected to report on Science Based Target measures (to the SBTi) including greenhouse gas emissions and with a much greater level of accountability than just a few years ago when as a small studio it may have felt unnecessarily onerous or even a barrier to engagement. We will now publicly report on our environmental performance to the Carbon Disclosure Programme (CDP) annually, playing our part in the move toward industry-wide transparency that will drive further improvement. One of the upsides of the recent pandemic for Recipe was being forced to operate as a fully decentralised team, using online collaboration tools (such as Miro and Zoom) in place of the open-plan studio culture that hitherto was considered an essential part of the creative agency model. Our experience surprised all of us and within weeks we decided to radically downsize our London offices and invest in remote working for the long term. With necessity being the mother of invention, it also became the ideal time to quickly develop remote research tools which have now become a more efficient, less costly, and less environmentally impactful choice over ethnographic studies conducted in situ around the world. In 2021, Recipe Design was rated within the top 6% of its industry by EcoVadis – the world’s most trusted business sustainability index – and was awarded a silver medal in recognition of achievements across key measures that define Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). We are committed to demonstrating continuous improvement year after year and in doing so, holding our own suppliers to equally high standards in contributing to a healthy society, planet, and business.