Toward a zero-waste pharma supply chain 

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The pharmaceutical industry is changing how it approaches sustainability. The call for industry change is critical as there are increasingly urgent warnings about the effects of climate change and other eco-crises. Increasingly, stakeholders are demanding change too.  
 
As a result, companies are increasingly making sustainability-related commitments. For example, in 2021, 21% of Forbes Global 2000 companies promised to cut emissions. Furthermore, over 25% of signatories to The Climate Pledge for net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 are consumer industry companies, including pharma companies. 
 
But more can be done. 
 
It’s no longer just about how companies think of sustainability; in seeking new ways to reduce the environmental impact of their operations, it’s also an opportunity to strengthen practices or develop new technologies. 

Identifying sustainability challenges  for pharmaceutical companies

Pharma executives promote sustainability in various ways, including by improving operational processes or implementing initiatives to increase capacities in healthcare systems. The pressure to do more continues to grow from all sides, and an increasing list of challenges in the pharma supply chain must be addressed, including: 

  • Excessive waste – of pharmaceutical products, from unsustainable packaging, from the use of single-use monitoring devices, and from excessive use of paper in keeping tabs on the supply chain 
  • Increasing demands for compliance, with stricter regulations for the environmental impact of pharma companies 
  • Missing targets for greenhouse gas emissions, with an unwieldy number of hard targets 

Data suggests that change needs to happen now. “The healthcare industry contributes 4.4 percent of all GHG emissions, meaning if it were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter on the planet,” according to a 2022 report by Deloitte. “The UK’s NHS is responsible for 5.4 percent of the UK’s total carbon emissions and estimates that 25 percent of their emissions are due to medicines.” 

Investing in energy-saving solutions 

Companies committing to sustainable solutions will reduce global supply chain waste while generating a positive environmental impact. “The pharma industry will need to fundamentally reimagine existing drug development and manufacturing processes, business models, supply chains, and digital infrastructure to collectively reach their commitments, and they need to do this now given the long development cycles,” according to Deloitte
 
Controlant works with 8 of the world’s top 20 pharma companies and finds its customers are looking for solutions that offer the ability to:  

  • Minimize the environmental impact of production and the supply chain. 
  • Address the leading causes of waste and pollution created by inefficient supply chains and thus bring the environmental impact under control.    
  • Minimize product loss due to excursions.  
  • Provide full visibility of the pharma supply chain in real time  
  • Automate interventions that save products from being wasted. 
  • Minimize the use of fuel and other resources required for the pharma supply chain. 

There’s been a huge shift in the market, with sustainability now given an equal weighting to considerations such as price and deliverability. The industry is setting itself some very aggressive targets, with many aiming for net zero emissions by 2030. 
Even in terms of job titles at the executive level in pharma, there are now Sustainability Directors and VPs Sustainability; positions that didn’t exist a decade ago.  

As pharma companies continue to seek solutions to work toward a healthier environment and society through sustainability practices, finding the right platform with these capabilities is key. The sustainable way is no longer simply the right way, it’s the only way. 

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