How a circular economy can benefit pharma manufacturers

By Annabel Kartal-Allen | Published: 22-Apr-2024

Implementing a circular economy can be beneficial for the planet and your business, if you play your cards right

Sustainability has become a significant focus in pharma during the last decade, with an increasing number of companies adapting procedures to reduce their environmental impact.

Due to the movement towards more sustainable practise, the circular economy concept was developed, meaning a majority of materials utilised in the manufacturing process are reused and regenerated. The concept can offer businesses the opportunity to benefit from collaboration, be ecologically conscious and impress regulatory officials.

To find out more about how a circular economy could positively impact the pharmaceutical industry, Annabel Kartal-Allen spoke to Jade Rodysill, Chemicals and & Advanced Materials Industry Leader for the Americas for Ernst & Young (EY).


Who is Ernst & Young?

EY is a multinational organisation specialising in consulting, tax and transactions. The company’s focus is to build a ‘better working world’, meaning it wants to develop strategies to enhance the sustainability of its clients, whilst also boosting their business success. Jade Rodysill, Chemicals and & Advanced Materials Industry Leader for the Americas for Ernst & Young

Jade Rodysill, Chemicals and & Advanced Materials Industry Leader for the Americas for Ernst & Young


Circular requires collaboration

Implementing a circular economy model into business practise can be beneficial, but you can’t do it alone, Jade explains: “Instead of attempting to do everything internally, most companies will benefit from forging partnerships to assist them in achieving their sustainability goals. Having an ecosystem of affiliates, if done right, brings companies that are highly equipped to get the job done into the equation, whilst also taking the pressure off companies to devise a strategy themselves. Looking for technology partners, suppliers, logistic firms and recyclers with a similar outlook are all key.”

It’s a forward-thinking compromise

— Jade speaking on adopting a circular economy business model

What drives the adoption of the circular model?

From a long-term perspective, sustainability is highly important. However, implementing such processes often comes as a tradeoff: “The two things that steer businesses towards a circular model are social pressure and the sentiment for companies to want more recycled material in their arsenal. However, this comes at a price. With high inflation and soaring costs, sometimes its not economically viable to include such business strategies.”

“However, a company’s public impression is incredibly important for business, and so is how they interact with regulatory boards. So, making these steps may not be the first thing organisations want to spend their money on, but it will benefit them going forward; it’s a forward-thinking compromise. Increasing the prevalence of recycling is something that benefits everybody – that includes waste collection and sorting, both mechanically and chemically.”

Although there are factors pushing organisations to work on their sustainability credentials, Jade believes there should be more initiatives available to motivate further growth in this area: “For these types of procedures to become commonplace in the industry, there needs to be incentives to encourage companies in the value chain to implement them. If the regulatory environment encourages circularity whilst social consciousness prevails, it can be a strongly viable business model.”


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How a company could implement the model

Depending on the size, reach and how a business currently operates, implementing more sustainable strategies can vary in difficulty.

Jade stresses that the approach should be adapted for every business: “In some cases, you’d want to create a new business unit that’s dedicated to enhancing sustainability, which would make sense for larger, more established companies. For others, however, it would be logical to focus on building up your connections, as sometimes an external body can do a better job. Another option is to start investing in venture capital funds that invest in these technologies.”

Some goals will be significantly harder to implement, and it would be logical to balance notable endeavours with small steps in the right direction: “There needs to be a mix of easily achievable targets, alongside some more difficult and risky projects that will likely pay off in the long run. You want to build momentum and show companies that these challenges are feasible to overcome whilst still making money.” He concludes.


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