Every life science organisation has a role to play in the fight against climate change. But a ‘one size fits all’ approach to site decarbonisation will not deliver the carbon zero future that the pharmaceutical industry is aiming for. Defined targets, company-wide engagement, an understanding of opporunities and the expertise to deliver and monitor the results, all offer the pharmaceutical industry the clearest pathway to creating truly net zero sites.


1. Define targets – According to UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2021, net zero must be the ambitious target for private businesses if we are to avoid the forecasted 2.2°C rise in temperature by the end of the 21st century. For the pharmaceutical industry, reducing carbon intensity will mean tackling scope 1 and 2 emissions as well as those within the value chain, known as scope 3, with this emission type accounting for 63% of life science greenhouse gas emissions.

Robust sustainability objectives should consider the challenge for each scope, across each site – the barriers to reducing carbon output are often site-specific and need to be understood before creating an accurate roadmap to net zero carbon.

2. Engage stakeholders – Alignment between key stakeholders is essential to agree support for each individual site’s carbon reduction objective and to ensure that this is in line with the organisation’s wider zero carbon goals. Keeping all parties in agreement reduces the risk of barriers further along the net zero journey.

3. Identify opportunities – Unique challenges to decarbonisation exist at every site, but these challenges also present unique opportunities. Resources will be needed to correctly identify each site’s best options for carbon reduction, with the potential to reduce costs while still maintaining compliance throughout.

The total carbon and cost saving of these identified projects should be quantified to allow each site to understand how net zero will transform their facility. Projects should be organised in terms of their priority – those that provide ‘quick wins’ (short paybacks) or significant carbon saving will be of the utmost importance. It is also worth noting that as energy prices continue to rise, energy-saving opportunities that initially presented long-term paybacks will only become more appealing from a financial perspective, as the cost of inaction begins to outweigh the cost of action.

4. Deliver results – Implementing these selected projects will require knowledgeable resource allocation to ensure that the everyday operation of the site is unaffected and that there is an assured consideration for compliance. This is of great importance in controlled environments such as cleanrooms or other GMP areas where critical factors must be controlled at all times to ensure quality and safety.

5. Monitor progress – As the projects are completed and new energy data is collected, a comparative analysis between the old and new figures will validate the extent of carbon saving. This should be checked with the site’s zero carbon roadmap to confirm the site is on track to deliver a net zero facility in line with the organisation’s decarbonisation ambitions.

6. Maintain momentum & innovate – Ultimately, net zero is not the endpoint for sustainability goals, with some pharmaceutical companies selecting specific sites to be ‘net positive’ facilities, employing new and innovative solutions to create a positive effect on the environment. These innovative solutions seek to lessen the energy wastage in the most intensive areas, such as cleanrooms, or implement carbon capture technology to more effectively offset greenhouse gas emissions than traditional carbon offsetting measures.