Sustainability Insights: How Green Are Pharma's Manufacturing Networks?

By Patricia Van Arnum - DCAT Editorial Director

July 15, 2015

The pharmaceutical majors are rolling out new initiatives to meet corporate sustainability goals with environmental, health, and safety (EHS) targets in manufacturing key to performance. So what are some key programs, and how are companies working within their internal and external manufacturing networks to deliver key goals? DCAT Value Chain Insights (VCI) takes an inside look

From Biogen's achievement of carbon neutrality, to GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) green manufacturing projects in Singapore, to Sanofi's strategy for water conservation, a roundup of these and other key programs by the pharmaceutical majors for advancing corporate sustainability goals in manufacturing.

Sustainability going strong
Biogen. Late last month, Biogen announced that it has achieved carbon neutrality, a milestone reached through a multi-year initiative to reduce its own emissions and by investing in environmental projects to offset the remaining carbon associated with its business, including emissions from suppliers and employee commuting and business travel. In accounting for its carbon emissions, Biogen followed the Greenhouse Gas  Protocol Corporate Standard methodology, an international accounting tool for quantifying and managing carbon emissions. The company also enlisted third-party auditors to validate its carbon emissions calculations and statement of carbon neutrality.

Some key measures were investing in sustainable technologies and highly efficient facilities and manufacturing processes, including energy-efficient heating and cooling, power through co-generation, and advanced distribution systems to conserve water. The company keeps more than 99% of its waste out of landfills by recycling, composting, or burning it to create energy. Another key project was working with its top suppliers to manage their environmental impact and encourage regular reporting of its suppliers' energy use and carbon emissions to set and meet reduction targets. Currently, about 70% of the carbon emissions associated with Biogen's business comes from its suppliers. The company also invested in programs that fund wind, solar, and low-impact hydroelectric power in the United States, Denmark, and Switzerland. Biogen is also investing in landfill gas projects that take naturally occurring methane gas and use it to produce energy.

Sanofi. Earlier this month, Sanofi and SUEZ environnement signed an agreement aimed at optimizing the economic and environmental performance of Sanofi's manufacturing sites in France and abroad, over a three-year period with the possibility of renewal. Under the agreement, SUEZ environnement will develop tailor-made solutions aimed at: improving the energy efficiency of Sanofi sites by optimizing the operation of water and waste-treatment systems and the sites' waste-to-energy performance and conserving water resources, in particular by optimizing water management, treatment, and recycling at production sites. Two major projects have been started in France under this agreement. The first is focused on modernizing and increasing the capacity of the wastewater treatment station at the company's biochemicals site in Saint-Aubin-lès-Elbeuf (Seine-Maritime), and the second is focused on building a waste-to-energy and volatile organic compound treatment unit for the company's chemicals site in Sisteron (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence).

The project is part of a range of EHS initiatives at Sanofi that further include: analyzing wastewater effluents at its manufacturing sites and assessing their impact on the environment; using technologies to treat wastewater discharge from its sites; limiting the environmental impacts of its products, carrying out environmental risk assessments; encouraging and supporting the proper use of medicines; and contributing to take-back programs for the collection and safe disposal of unused medicines.

In terms of manufacturing, the company has established a program at eight Sanofi chemical manufacturing sites to develop analytical methods for detecting and quantifying pharmaceutical substances in wastewater from its treatment plants. The program will also determine maximum target concentrations. The company has identified 30 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) from Sanofi's product portfolio based on environmental proprieties (tonnage, toxicity, bioaccumulation,and persistence) and began to quantify their trace amounts in wastewater effluents. By late 2014, 44% of the APIs in wastewater from its sites had been assigned a target value, and the company is slating to determine such values for the remaining 56% of its target APIs by the end of 2015. In terms of wastewater, Sanofi has research agreements with two French universities and the French National Center for Scientific Research focused on oxidative technologies that could be used for wastewater treatment (Poitiers University) and the environmental impact of certain pharmaceuticals in coastal waters (Montpellier University), with a particular focus on bioaccumulation in mollusks, which are used in biomonitoring programs.

Overall, Sanofi said it is on track with a long-term plan (2010-2020) to achieve a 20% reduction in the combined carbon dioxide emissions for its industrial R&D sites and sales force vehicles. In 2014, its carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 15% compared to 2010. Also, in 2014, the company undertook, together with an independent consultancy, a desktop-based mapping of the biodiversity sensitivity of its 116 industrial sites. Initial results indicate that only nine sites (of which six are in Europe) are located in an area of potential high sensitivity to biodiversity. Additional studies are being undertaken in 2015 to refine the evaluation.

GlaxoSmithKline. Earlier this month, GSK announced that it plans to invest an additional £38 million (US$59 million) in its antibiotic manufacturing plant on Quality Road in Singapore, building on its initial investment of S$60(US$44 million) committed in 2012. The Quality Road plant is GSK's sole production site for amoxicillin; the active compound used in the manufacture of antibiotics for treating bacterial infections. The investment is part of GSK's partnership with Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) and is a key element of the GSK-EDB 10-year Singapore Manufacturing Roadmap announced in 2012, which outlined projects for green manufacturing. The new investment will be used to construct an additional downstream isolation facility for GSK's enzymatic manufacturing facility at Quality Road. GSK said this will increase production by 50% and help the company meet the growing demand for antibiotics in emerging markets.

GSK said that the use of enzymatic technology over chemical processes in the production of amoxicillin will reduce its carbon footprint by up to 25%. The improved process involves fewer steps under milder conditions and uses less organic solvents, resulting in the elimination of almost 80% of the organic waste associated with the older chemical process, according to GSK. This sustainable approach to the manufacture of amoxicillin is part of GSK's partnership with the EDB to improve the efficiency of pharmaceutical and fine chemical manufacture in Singapore. Singapore is home to GSK's Regional Headquarters (Emerging Markets & Asia Pacific), two global primary manufacturing and supply sites (Jurong and Quality Road), and a vaccines plant (Tuas).The Quality Road site was built in 1972 and officially opened in May 1973. The site was originally built to produce a range of newly discovered semi-synthetic penicillins and had both primary and secondary production facilities to make the final dose forms. Over time, the site developed as the single source of amoxicillin and monosodium ticarcillin, which are active compounds for the manufacture of two of GSK's antibiotics.

The Singapore projects are one part of an overall goal by GSK to be carbon-neutral across its value chain by 2050. It is seeking to achieve that goal by reducing operational emissions and engaging with suppliers and consumers to cut emissions associated with sourcing raw materials and using its products, including managing emissions in the value chain, but also looking at more resource-efficient technologies to make its products. Working with its suppliers to help them reduce their carbon emissions is an important part of the company's strategy for achieving its carbon goals. In 2014, the company collected carbon, water, and waste data from more than 200 of its largest materials suppliers, covering over £1 billion ($1.56 billion) of its spending on raw materials used in manufacturing and R&D. In 2014, the company also launched the GSK Supplier Exchange, an online forum under which GSK suppliers collaborate to share practical ideas about improving energy efficiency and reducing water use. In other key initiatives, GSK has been working with the Carbon Trust since 2011 to measure and certify the carbon footprints of 40 largest-selling products to identify where it can make the most effective reductions from emissions associated with its products. This further involves reducing energy use and the carbon emissions associated with the energy that the company purchases. Related activities to reduce environmental impacts include investing in infrastructure such as wind turbines to generate renewable energy and using waste as fuel.

Like other companies, GSK is also targeting to reduce water consumption. In 2014, the company cut its operational water use by a further 5%. This 20% reduction from the 2010 baseline has enabled the company to met its 2015 target to cut operational water use by 20% a year early. Internally, the company uses 15 million cubic meters of water per year in its operations (research laboratories, manufacturing sites, and offices). In 2014, the company audited four of its highest water-use sites in India, Italy, and Singapore, three of which are in areas of water scarcity. The company has cut water use by an average of 10% at each of these sites by, for example, by introducing more water-efficient cleaning procedures, identifying and repairing leaks, and investing in efficient equipment. It also has taken on the task of measuring and reducing its wider water impact across the value chain, and in 2014, completed an assessment to identify the activities that have the highest water impact across its value chain and prioritized its efforts. The company estimates that its supply chain uses an estimated 1,200 million cubic meters of water. Raw materials for Horlicks (a malted milk by GSK's consumer healthcare business), carbohydrates (sugars), wood-derived products, and eggs (for vaccine production) accounted for 75% of the water impact. The company has partnered with TERI, a nongovernmental organization in India, to develop a diagnostic water impact tool. In 2014, the company used this tool to identify opportunities for its 10 largest suppliers to reduce water impacts.

Novartis. Novartis has established targets on total greenhouse gas emissions for 2015 and 2020, representing an absolute reduction of 15% by 2015 and of 20% by 2020, based on 2008 levels. While Novartis' main focus is to lower greenhouse gas emissions by using renewable energy, purchasing energy from renewable sources, and improving the energy efficiency of its operations, the company also uses voluntary carbon sink options in line with the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism. These help the company compensate part of its emissions through afforestation, particularly in developing countries or emerging markets. The company has three well-established carbon sink forestry projects in Argentina, Mali, and China with a fourth project underway in Colombia. About 3 million trees were planted on its land in Argentina between 2007 and 2010. Additionally, an area of 4,100 hectares in southwestern Sichuan, China is being planted with 9 million trees, with 1 719 hectares planted in 2014. Carbon offsets achieved in 2014 from its forestry projects totaled 67 kilotons of carbon dioxide, or 3.8%, of its 2008 baseline emissions.

Pfizer. Pfizer's goal is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 20% from 2012 to 2020 by building on successful past reductions of 20% from 2000 to 2007 and 25% from 2007 to 2012. The company also seeks ways to reduce the environmental impact of its products by reducing packaging and waste and through recycling. The company's 2020 goal is to reduce the amount of waste it disposes by 15% compared with 2012. In terms of its global water footprint, the company seeks to decrease water use and reuse water through water recycling, when possible. Its 2020 goal is to reduce its water use by 5% compared to 2012.