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It is no coincidence that most large pharmaceutical company websites have a main section dedicated to sustainability. Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly placing a lot of importance on becoming more sustainable, by manufacturing medicines that have the same medicinal output, but have reduced environmental impact. Whether this is due to changing the packaging, investing in ‘green’ chemistry or improving the production and manufacturing processes, the aim remains the same – to become more sustainable.

For large global companies, it is crucial to set clear, achievable and measurable goals in order to achieve the greatest results in sustainability, and this doesn’t only apply to carbon emissions, but energy consumption, water supply and waste too.

Setting clear, understandable and achievable goals will focus the organisation – both as a global company and on a site level – on activities and projects that will see the company closer to reaching the environmental sustainability goals. As AstraZeneca states, ‘improvements can only be delivered through a collective effort across the company’ (www.astrazeneca.com).

Setting a global company goal is a great way of communicating to employees and to the rest of the world what is expected of each site and of the company as a whole.


GSK has set a new environmental target to reduce its environmental impact by one quarter by 2030.

‘To ensure we can continue to deliver high quality products to patients and consumers in the future, we must protect the natural resources we need to make them today.’

Against a 2016 baseline, GSK aims to:

  • Reduce operational carbon emissions (scope 1 and 2) by 15% by 2025 and by 20% by 2030.
  • Reduce our value chain carbon emissions (Scope 3) per £ billion revenue by 25% by 2030
  • Source 45 % of electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and 60% by 2030
  • Reduce 20% of total water use at each high-risk site by 2025 and 30% by 2030
  • Repurpose 80% of waste for beneficial use by 2025 and 100% by 2030

(ref: www.gsk.com)

At first the list appears challenging, but each target or goal needs to be broken down into projects over the time line provided. Each target will most probably be split up into site targets, which will feed into the global result. It is also very likely that large pharmaceutical companies, such as GSK, would use consultancy services who specialise in each area to help them to achieve each target. For example, for energy or water reduction targets, EECO2 would be able to assess each site and provide a full project list to support the site in achieving its target.


Pfizer is another major pharmaceutical company that is doing its part to stay green. ‘Pfizer is finding innovative ways to minimize our impact on the environment during the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and is continuously “greening” the process… An important part of our responsibility as a global health care company is to help ensure our water usage does not negatively affect the communities where we operate by diminishing the supplies of clean water or degrading the quality of that water’ (www.pfizer.com).

Pfizer requires its facilities worldwide to quantify water use, report performance against reduction targets and support community efforts during drought conditions. This is similar to many large global pharmaceutical companies, one of which is mentioned in our case study ‘Water Reduction Strategy Developed to Aid Water Scarcity in Region’.

Pfizer aims to build their global Water Sustainability Program following the UN Global Water Mandate, achieve their 2020 public water reduction goal of reducing water withdrawal (excluding non-contact cooling water) by 5% compared to a 2012 baseline and understand water-related risk and opportunities in their operations.

The company also plan to implement improved practices to further efficiencies in water recycling and reuse. This includes things such as routine leak detection and repair of fresh water distribution lines, reusing treated wastewater in cooling towers and collecting rain water to re-load well water supply. These are just a few of the actions large companies can do to manage water usage effectively. 


As previously mentioned, another company that state that the environment is a key performance priority for its business is AstraZeneca. “We are committed to environmental stewardship across the product life cycle, from discovery and development, through manufacturing, marketing, use and ultimately disposal. We are also committed to minimising the environmental impact of our operations by reducing the carbon footprint and natural resource demands of our own and our suppliers’ business activities” (www.astrazeneca.com).

Given that the top global pharmaceutical companies set environmental sustainability targets, it is no secret that it is a very important and advantageous thing to do… especially if the company can commit to a project plan and see the projects through to completion.

In addition to helping to preserve the planet and helping local communities by reducing energy consumption, water usage and carbon emissions; producing great environmental sustainability results is a great reason for large pharmaceutical companies to interact with the public and create a positive brand image in relation to sustainability. Finally, there is the business benefit to the sustainability targets; cost reduction. For almost every environmental sustainability target of reducing energy consumption, water usage or carbon emissions, there will also be an energy cost saving, which is incredibly appealing to organisations across all sectors.

If your company would like assistance with reaching its environmental sustainability targets, contact EECO2 today and see how our team can help.

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Eli Lilly