Sustainable air logistics for the pharmaceutical supply chain

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The air logistics industry is an essential part in the fast and efficient distribution of time-sensitive pharmaceutical products around the world, enabling medicines, vaccines, clinical trials, and life-saving and life-improving treatments to be administered to patients quickly and effectively, regardless of their geographical location, to prevent, control and treat diseases… Yet, understandably, the complexities involved in this global supply chain require a continually evolving balance between compliance, operational efficiency, product protection and sustainability.

Despite the obvious benefits to world health –the pharmaceutical industry is increasingly under scrutiny for its carbon footprint as vaccines and medicines are often produced in one country and distributed globally. A 2019 study deduced that the industry generates about 48.55 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per $1 million. This is 55% higher than the emission intensity of the automotive industry.

International shipment and collaboration are essential for ensuring equitable access to healthcare resources, promoting medical research and development, and addressing health disparities among different regions, however, many pharmaceutical organisations 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.

The shipping of pharmaceuticals via air logistics is one area where huge differences can be made in terms of reducing environmental impact.  While a huge number of complex steps are required to ensure life-saving products arrive to patients safely and securely, careful consideration of partners and processes can help to improve sustainability across the pharmaceutical cold chain.

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Authored by Marloes Wanrooij Regional Operations Manager EMEA and Sustainability lead at Tower Cold Chain