Opinion: New age of enlightenment

Published: 8-Mar-2011

Sustainability is now at the heart of most pharmaceutical companies’ strategies, writes managing editor Hilary Ayshford

Looking back over the last couple of decades, it is encouraging – if not that surprising – to see how far up the political, economic and ethical agenda the topic of environmental responsibility has climbed.

From naive notions that recycling everything would save the planet from annihilation and vague but unsubstantiated theories about global warming, thinking has moved on apace to the point where pharma supply chain companies without a fully fledged, well thought out, coherent and measurable sustainability policy are the exception rather than the rule.

Moreover, it is not just the large, multinational manufacturing companies – such as GSK looking to monitor and optimise its water consumption – that are putting the environment at the heart of what they do. Sustainability now influences virtually every operation from early phase development and scale-up through to commercial scale production, packaging and logistics.

Just as manufacturers are gradually passing the responsibility for the quality of their raw materials and the equipment they use on to their suppliers, they are now looking to purchase from companies with a similar level of environmental responsibility.

It is encouraging to see that the growing focus on sustainability is also giving rise to innovation at all stages in the supply chain. Many researchers, for example, are turning to water to make their chemical reactions safer, cheaper and less wasteful. And Japanese company Zeon has been recognised internationally not only for its innovative chemistry but also for the environmental benefits conferred by its high performance ether solvent, CPME.

The environment may have been seen initially by the cynical as nothing more than a handy marketing tool, but it is now a strategic cornerstone on which companies are building their future.

Although REACH is there in the background as a stick that could be used to enforce environmental conformance, the carrots of reputation, safety, productivity and lower waste costs are far more enticing.

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