The pharmaceutical industry is growing. A 2020 report  valued the worldwide life science manufacturing market at $405bn USD, with an expected compound annual growth rate of 11.34% over the following 8 years.
As the quantity and diversity of pharmaceutical products continues to rise, so too does the burden this places on our environment. Efforts to limit this burden can already be measured, for instance, global pharmaceutical manufacturer AstraZeneca has reported a 60% decrease in carbon emissions since 2015 , but still requires noteworthy progress if it is to achieve a 100% reduction in emissions by the 2025 target .
Evidence gathered by lab sustainability experts, My Green Lab, indicates that only 4% of life science organisations are set to deliver a future aligned to the 2030 emissions goals  that are outlined in Article 2 of The Paris Agreement of COP21 .
While the pressure to operate sustainably is beginning to be applied by a variety of interested parties, including investors, stakeholders, employees and even customers, just 42% of the pharmaceutical industry has established a clear carbon reduction objective  and of this 42%, just three companies currently have targets that will limit planetary warming to 1.5°C by 2030.
The challenge is clear, in order to deliver a more sustainable future, the life science industry needs to align the ambition for a cleaner, healthier future with objectives and targets that will deliver this aspiration.
Ultimately, each business needs to determine its own pathway to net zero and beyond, but to do this, external guidance can provide not only a realistic and attainable plan for decarbonisation but also give an insight into how this will affect business operations.
For a recent project, our client in question had recently published ambitious sustainability targets, aimed at greatly reducing the carbon and environmental impact of business operations. While the drive to achieve a net zero future was clear, the way in which the organisation could do this was still to be decided.
In order to determine this, a full breakdown of challenges and opportunities was created, considering all aspects of the value chain, which are defined by the ET Index Research  across three scopes:
· Scope 1 – “All direct emissions”. Essentially, emissions from sources that the organisation directly controls, such as the burning of gas on site and release of refrigerant gases or solvents.
· Scope 2 – “Indirect emissions generated from the purchase of electricity” - the emissions cost of procuring electricity from off-site sources.
· Scope 3 - “All other indirect emissions, both upstream and downstream, such as distribution of goods, transportation of purchased goods, transportation of waste, disposal of waste, employee commuting, business travel or investments. Scope 3 emissions are usually the largest percentage of a company’s total GHG emissions”.
The first undertaking of the project was to review the existing organisational approach and gather information from 10 sample sites that were specifically chosen based on their representative nature and wider applicability to the client’s other sites.
These sites were also selected due to their carbon intensity, representing 76% of the organisation’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Following this, a gap analysis was performed to identify potential risks and opportunities in the emissions reduction plan, alongside a pricing sensitivity analysis (see figure 1) to provide a clear insight into the possible OpEx paths of the corporation versus a business-as-usual (BAU) projection.
Roadmaps were then finalised and agreed upon, which provided the client with a clear timeline for implementation. This also detailed the management systems that would best deliver the net zero ambition, with a full assessment of capital and operational costs to support the roadmaps.
Ultimately, the client was able to understand the next steps on the road to a zero-carbon future, with a clear list of prioritised recommendations that covered all three scopes. In scopes 1 & 2, the decarbonisation plan represented a 100% reduction in emissions, totalling an annual decrease of over 400,000 tonnes CO2e.
Setting realistic goals that are in line with an organisation’s carbon reduction challenge is the first step towards decarbonisation and is central to the entire net-zero ambition.
But beyond this, consideration for how each individual site can practically reduce energy consumption is needed. Many sites face unique challenges that require tailored solutions, with each of these sites benefitting from a specific roadmap that outlines a pathway to total carbon reduction.
One reality for pharmaceutical sites is that there is not always an awareness of the best decarbonisation opportunities. These opportunities can be separated into three areas: utilities, water & heating, ventilation & air conditioning (HVAC).
HVAC typically comprises the greatest opportunity for improved energy efficiency, as the greatest energy-saving projects  and potential for decreased consumption are often found in this area (see figure 2).
Securing buy-in from all stakeholder departments is also a pivotal challenge in delivering successful energy reductions on-site, with alignment between quality, engineering and production departments playing a key role in successful project identification.
Site teams are often experts in their own facilities, so combining their knowledge of the facility with current engineering best practices and experience in improving energy efficiency in GMP areas typically uncovers previously unknown opportunities for optimisation.
In order to secure buy-in from all stakeholders, identified projects need to account for energy and carbon saving in line with organisational sustainability objectives and consider the financial impact of implementation, with additional thought towards how the proposed measures could impact GMP compliance.
Project payback can be calculated in support of this endeavour by calculating the total investment cost minus the annual cost saving identified via energy/resource reduction, with the typical payback in HVAC system projects amounting to approximately four years or less.
With this information now outlined, a detailed roadmap that acts as a step-by-step guide now provides a clear plan for the site team to follow in order to achieve significant carbon and cost reduction.
Of course, with the continual rise in energy prices, particularly in Europe , even opportunities that previously had long-term paybacks will become increasingly appealing to many pharmaceutical organisations who are attempting to manage this continual rise in operational expenditure.
With water being a crucial resource in pharmaceutical manufacturing , the topic of conserving and enhancing the efficiency of water-based systems is rising on the agenda for countless global life science businesses, as was the case at a client's pharmaceutical site in South Africa.
The local facility team were facing significant challenges with water due to low winter rainfall. This situation was exacerbated by the rapidly approaching summer season that would limit water accessibility even further in the region.
To combat this, a water reduction strategy was devised that considered the urgent need for identifying and implementing water-conserving solutions. Taking into account the local site team knowledge, alongside EECO2 experience in engineering best practice, a total of 24 varying opportunities were explored and presented to the client team.
These included water metering, enhanced reporting procedures, water recycling, rainwater harvesting and more efficient water-cooling systems that totalled in identifying water savings of 47% of site water consumption, assisting the site to not only overcome the immediate threat of water shortage but also improve the long-term sustainability of the site and safeguard against similar challenges occurring in the future.
But assessing energy and water consumption is not the only way for life science companies to understand the environmental ramifications of site operations. Pharmaceutical production has far-reaching consequences for the environment in which this production takes place, with a 2014 review  finding that over 600 pharmaceutical substances have been detected across a variety of environments worldwide. Of course, for a pharmaceutical industry that is coming to terms with its global operations, this impact on nature represents a significant challenge.
On-site, there are a number of different approaches that can be taken to negate these consequences. Principal to this is proper waste management, which focuses on not only limiting the amount of waste produced but also managing the way in which this waste is stored.
GSK have recorded significant success in this aspect, noting a 78% decrease in waste to landfill since 2010 .
Biodiversity is another core aspect of nature-focused sustainability, most notably, organisations such as the aforementioned GSK have admirably included biodiversity targets within their own sustainability goals  in an effort to go beyond the typical net zero objective and deliver a net-positive impact on nature by 2030.
Once relevant opportunities have been identified, some opportunities requiring limited investment and low technical risk can progress directly to implementation. Normally these will be projected to achieve paybacks of less than 2 years and be relatively straightforward to implement.
However, more complex and higher investment projects may need further study to refine the solution and mitigate uncertainty or risk. Whilst the assessment process will have considered this to a reasonable degree, this is often the final step prior to implementation and realising the carbon and energy savings that were first noted when uncovering the opportunity.
Putting this into practice in a recent project, a life science site in France was able to outline a pathway to total carbon reduction. For context, the site had already switched to a renewable electricity source, so emissions typically associated with scope 2 were significantly reduced.
However, in order to achieve total site decarbonisation in line with the organisation’s goals for carbon reduction, the site needed to explore options to nullify the burning of natural gas. To do this, the feasibility of an electric heat pump opportunity was explored.
Heat pumps utilise a refrigeration cycle to boost heat output to 3 or more times the electrical input. However, they have certain limitations which must be considered carefully in the application as this can have a huge impact on their viability and long-term operational costs.
The feasibility study included a site survey, close collaboration with the site team and a full report of potential options to fully enable the final client decision.
By installing a heat pump with some other operational changes, it was determined that a 100% reduction could be achieved in gas usage, effectively decarbonising the site and bringing the facility in line with the organisation’s goals for reducing carbon intensity.
A present challenge in the pharmaceutical industry is not only monitoring the success of energy efficiency improvements but also understanding how these results fit into the net zero ambition.
In order for fully sustainable operations to take place, all sites must in some capacity be aware of their greatest energy consumers and be able to monitor these consistently.
Transparency in energy consumption, particularly in leased and rented commercial operations can be difficult. An accurate breakdown of equipment energy consumption is hard to access in scenarios where energy metering information is not made readily available.
In overcoming this issue in a recent project, a client was able to ascertain a full breakdown of the largest energy consumers across three separate sites. The client was driven by a 2040 net zero objective and as such, required a non-invasive metering solution at multiple facilities.
The data from the non-invasive metering solution was presented in a digital energy dashboard format that allowed the client to monitor energy consumption from a range of equipment sources across the portfolio of facilities.
This was paired with a behaviour change programme, with the eventual outlook to monitor the success of this programme via the energy dashboard solution. As a result, the client was able to understand the key areas to target in order to improve sustainability at the facilities, these ranged from lighting controls, to optimising HVAC setpoints and informing the site teams on efficient usage of freezers and utilities.
All of the actions identified required little or no investment and are expected to deliver 10-20% energy reduction for each facility. It is foreseeable that with some investment in changing to more efficient equipment a further 10-20% reduction could be achieved.
Whilst monitoring energy performance is clearly good practice, it’s the insight and resultant behavioural changes of staff as it relates to energy use that should be the key outcome.
Influencing staff to become more aware and take appropriate action is a very underused strategy and is going to become essential if Pharma is going to realise its carbon zero ambitions. New technology will be part of the solution, but one should consider how people can help get the most out of that technology.
To go above and beyond current decarbonisation objectives, the life science industry needs to consider methods to reduce energy consumption in all areas, including cleanrooms. To do this innovative solutions are required to maintain GMP compliance as well as deliver a more energy-efficient space.
The challenge in improving cleanroom energy efficiency is significant. Cleanrooms have been recorded to consume up to 67% of total facility energy , with much of this derived from the HVAC system that provides airflow into the controlled environment.
On a global scale, there are now well over 20,000 cleanroom facilities in operation, accounting for more than $1bn USD annual spend on energy . Such a massive consumption of energy poses a serious barrier for pharma organisations attempting to achieve their sustainability objectives.
Cleanrooms are however unavoidable in pharmaceutical production, the requirement to maintain and control critical parameters such as temperature, humidity, pressure and cleanliness is fundamental to producing compliant and safe products.
The airflow into the space helps to dictate the rate at which cleanroom air is changed (ACR). Within each classification of cleanroom, there are suggested limits specifying at what rate air must be changed for the space to remain compliant, this can make reducing energy consumption difficult.
While airflow must remain sufficient to provide correct temperature and humidity, dilute the airborne concentration of particles below the limits for the cleanroom classification and maintain a differential pressure cascade between different cleanroom spaces to restrict the movement of airborne particles , there is potential to lessen cleanroom airflow below the levels commonly found in many pharmaceutical facilities.
Indeed, the cleanrooms of today typically operate under a static airflow regime, meaning the airflow to the room is unresponsive to the contamination challenge at any given time, providing a constant but sometimes unnecessarily high supply air flow rate, resulting in high air change rates.
Theoretically, a more dynamic approach to air change rates (ACR) is one solution to cleanroom energy consumption.
By utilising particle counters, it is possible to monitor the contamination in the environment in real-time and then only provide sufficient airflow to combat this contamination challenge. Of course, the ACR remains within the setpoint of the classification limit, so as to still remain compliant but also provide a dynamic solution that adapts to the demand of the space at any given time.
At times of low particle generation rates, such as low occupancy, a dynamic cleanroom control system will lessen airflow to provide a low ACR and therefore significantly lessen energy consumption.
In the event of increasing particle generation rates, the system increases airflow to the necessary level to abate this new contamination challenge well before it can reach levels that would challenge product or room compliance limits.
Such technology has recently been installed at the Cambridge Pharma Limited facility in the Cambridge Research Park, UK. The Intelligent Cleanroom Control System (iCCS®) operates as a commissioned but not qualified control system that works alongside a qualified environmental monitoring system to provide a fully compliant solution.
From a compliance performance aspect, the facility is operating between 20-30% of the class limit for an ISO Class 7 cleanroom, which is well within the tolerable margins of a compliant production facility.
In terms of energy performance, early data is demonstrating a minimum reduction of 50% fan energy consumption when compared with a theoretical static system operating at 15 air changes per hour – which is very much at the lower level of air changes found in many ISO 7 cleanrooms.
Technology like ICCS® is highlighting the need to bring innovation and engineering best practice into the realm of sustainability, without which, hard-to-tackle emissions such as those associated with energy-intensive cleanrooms, would remain undisturbed, proving to be a thorn in the side of pharmaceutical organisations attempting to lessen the energy intensity of their aseptic and sterile manufacturing spaces.
The challenge for the pharmaceutical sector is great, as an industry that is dependent on energy-consuming processes such as HVAC, there will always be a requirement for energy use.
Energy efficiency exists as not just a solution to the challenge ahead of pharma but as an opportunity to build a net positive future for the planet.
Events such as the rising cost of energy across the globe  are demonstrating the importance of energy conservation and the need to improve energy efficiency serves as a pathway to sustainable operations, both monetarily and environmentally.
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