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Understanding the Role of Energy

Efficiency in Achieving Pharmaceutical Sustainability Targets

The pharmaceutical industry is growing. A 2020 report1 valued the worldwide life science manufacturing market at $405bn USD, with an expected compound annual growth rate of 11.34% over the following 8 years. As the quantity and diversity of pharmaceutical product continue to rise, so too does the burden this places on our environment. Efforts to limit this burden can already be measured, for instance, global pharmaceutical manufacturer AstraZeneca has reported a 60% decrease in carbon emissions since 2015,2 but still requires noteworthy progress if it is to achieve a 100% reduction in emissions by the 2025 target.3 Evidence gathered by lab sustainability experts, My Green Lab, indicates that only 4% of life science organisations are set to deliver a future aligned to the 2030 emissions goals4 that are outlined in Article 2 of The Paris Agreement of COP21.5


While the pressure to operate sustainably is beginning to be applied by a variety of interested parties, including investors, stakeholders, employees, and even customers, just 42% of the pharmaceutical industry has established a clear carbon reduction objective6 and of this 42%, just three companies currently have targets that will limit planetary warming to 1.5°C by 2030. The challenge is clear, in order to deliver a more sustainable future, the life science industry needs to align the ambition for a cleaner, healthier future with objectives and targets that will deliver this aspiration. Ultimately, each business needs to determine its own pathway to net zero and beyond, but to do this, external guidance can provide not only a realistic and attainable plan for decarbonisation but also give an insight into how this will affect business operations. For a recent project, the client in question had recently published ambitious sustainability targets, aimed at greatly reducing the carbon and environmental impact of business operations. While the drive to achieve a net zero future was clear, the way in which the organisation could do this was still to be decided. In order to determine this, a full breakdown of challenges and opportunities was created, considering all aspects of the value chain, which are defined by the ET Index Research7 across three scopes:

Scope 1 – “All direct emissions”. Essentially, emissions from sources that the organisation directly controls, such as the burning of gas on-site and the release of refrigerant gases or solvents.

Scope 2 – “Indirect emissions generated from the purchase of electricity” – the emissions cost of procuring electricity from off-site sources.

Scope 3 – “All other indirect emissions, both upstream and downstream, such as distribution of goods, transportation of purchased goods, transportation of waste, disposal of waste, employee commuting, business travel or investments. Scope 3 emissions are usually the largest percentage of a company’s total GHG emissions”.

The first undertaking of the project was to review the existing organisational approach and gather information from 10 sample sites that were specifically chosen based on their representative nature and wider applicability to the client’s other sites. These sites were also selected due to their carbon intensity, representing 76% of the organisation’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Following this, a gap analysis was performed to identify potential risks and opportunities in the emissions reduction plan, alongside a pricing sensitivity analysis (see figure 1) to provide a clear insight into the possible OpEx paths of the corporation versus a business-as-usual (BAU) projection.