Realistic Net-Zero Goals for Pharma

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At its core, the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries exist to help people live healthier lives, which many might argue is the foundation for a prosperous society. COVID-19 encapsulated the intrinsic connection between these industries and the global economy; however, it also raised public awareness on what it takes to get a medicine from the manufacturer to the patient. Naturally, with such a spotlight, focus shifted toward the subject of sustainability, against the universal backdrop of looming climate emergency.

Taking into account the revenue generated by the pharma industry, as was done in a 2019 study,1 it can be deduced that the industry generates about 48.55 tons of CO2 equivalent per $1 million. This is 55% higher that the emission intensity of the automotive industry. Thus, many may not be surprised to see the recent regulatory action from governments and international institutions, be it in the form of carbon tax, tighter policies, or shipping restrictions.

With such demand for companies to meet the three pillars of the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) triad, many pharma organizations are reassessing their processes, and taking tangible actions to become more sustainable. For example, Pfizer has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 and announced a list of measures to achieve this, from reducing direct emissions to purchasing 100% of electricity from renewable sources.

Novartis is taking similar steps, but has separated its deadlines for carbon neutrality—2025 across its own operations, but 2030 throughout its value chain.

Achieving real and measurable change needs to be practical for pharma companies. A huge number of complex steps are required to ensure life-saving products arrive to patients safely and securely. With dozens of organizations involved, each of these partners and processes must be carefully considered to find the optimum balance between operational efficiency, product protection, and sustainability.

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Authored by Richard Peck at Tower Cold Chain. 
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