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by Alison Culpan, ABPI Scotland
07 November 2022
Associate Feature: The power of collaboration

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Associate Feature: The power of collaboration

The pharmaceutical industry has been involved in environmental initiatives since the early 90’s and is committed to minimising its impact on the planet. We fully support the Scottish Government’s commitment that NHS Scotland will be a ‘net-zero’ greenhouse gas emissions organisation by 2045 at the latest, and the ABPI and our members are working hard to help achieve this ambition.

Pharmaceuticals have been estimated to account for between 12.5% and 25% of NHS carbon emissions, with 5% of the footprint attributed to some types of asthma inhalers and anaesthetic gases. Several companies already produce lower-carbon asthma inhalers and are continuing to invest heavily in researching alternative delivery mechanisms for inhalers that make them less harmful to the environment but still as effective for patients.

However, sustainability isn’t just about cutting carbon emissions. Initiatives to recycle, cut waste, save water, and minimise the impact on the environment from the normal use of the medicine are all extremely important.

Companies are investing in the research and development of greener products, as well as more sustainable production and distribution practices. The ultimate goal is to find effective solutions that allow us to deliver medical innovation to patients in ways that also protect and support the environment.

When it comes to environmental sustainability, our industry looks at its footprint in a broad sense. It is not just the impact we have directly on the environment; it is also understanding the impact our suppliers have when working for us, and the impact our patients have as they use our medicines. We take a wide view and assess our entire value chains. With this ambition, commitment, and investment, we are sure to achieve progress.

However, the scale of the challenge means we need to work together with others to move forwards and attain success. For example, through the Energize initiative, where 12 pharmaceutical companies have come together with energy companies to accelerate the adoption of renewable electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the pharmaceutical value chain.

It’s important that companies can work with regulators, health systems and governments to solve the environmental challenges we face. Throughout the pandemic, we witnessed that the pharmaceutical industry could bring real benefits to the table at pace by working together with governments, academia, the NHS and other stakeholders. Addressing the global climate crisis will take a similar kind of collaboration.

In Scotland, the ABPI stands ready to work with the Scottish Government and the NHS to engage with industry to achieve the ambitions of the NHS Scotland sustainability strategy. Industry has a vast range of global experiences that it is willing to share to ensure a sustainable future for our health service. Only by working in collaboration will we go further and faster in meeting our environmental goals.

The Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Glasgow has been set up to foster collaboration and innovation in addressing the big challenges that face our industry. One of the challenges it is looking at is improving the manufacturing of oligonucleotides, including taking steps to make the manufacturing process greener; for example, by replacing acetonitrile with water and moving toward biocatalysis rather than chemical processes.

As part of GSK’s commitment to have a net zero impact on climate by 2030, they have set a target to transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2025. In September 2021, they announced a major investment at manufacturing sites in Irvine in Scotland and Oak Hill in the US to secure renewable power generation.
  This includes building a solar farm and two new wind turbines with a total generating capacity of 28 MW which will supply 85% of GSK Irvine’s energy needs. This builds on a series of investments in wind, biomass and biogas and will cut emissions by some 10,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.


The article is sponsored by ABPI Scotland


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