Pharmaceuticals and the environment: how can the industry put its best foot forward?

6 mins read

In recent years, it has become more and more important to both consumers and investors that they support organisations which display a high level of social and environmental responsibility. This means that it’s no longer enough for businesses to manage their bottom lines and maintain profitability, they must also be conscious of the impact they have on the world around them. There is a need for pharmaceutical companies to now make commitments on sustainable and ethical policies.

Market-leading peptide oligonucleotide producer Bachem is keen to share how they are implementing sustainable practices and how the pharmaceutical industry at large can address their production processes and optimise supply chains to be more socially and environmentally responsible. Marketing and Communications Associate Camilla Koller explains the steps pharmaceutical companies like Bachem are taking, and should take, to ensure their impact on society and the environment is positive.

Developing and implementing effective CSR systems

Pharmaceutical companies can use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a guide to which they can align their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. A strong CSR strategy will include a clear CSR vision and mission with annual goals, and lay out how progress will be managed and measured so that these goals can be met. 

The Responsible Care® initiative is a popular voluntary programme within the global chemical industry which numerous pharmaceutical companies participate in. These companies commit to fulfilling the actions outlined in the programme’s framework, including using resources efficiently and minimising waste, and cooperating with governments and policymakers to develop and implement better regulation.

EcoVadis is the leading, most trusted provider of sustainability ratings for business. Their assessments and ratings can be extremely valuable for pharmaceutical companies who chose to set their CSR programmes in-house rather than committing to initiatives like Responsible Care®. Their detailed reports and ratings, from bronze through to platinum, help companies to evaluate their progress towards greater social and environmental consciousness and show customers their commitment and achievements.

Naturally, health and wellbeing are the top priority for most pharmaceutical companies; it’s what motivates us to provide the highest quality and most effective medicines and drugs to our customers. After all, it’s customers who allow businesses in the industry to keep developing better and better products.

Ambitious targets which drive continuous improvement

Employers in the pharmaceutical industry should consult with their workforces to ensure that they are providing fair and satisfying employment, and creating safe and inclusive work environments. Setting clear long and short-term goals across areas like occupational health and safety, diversity and equal opportunity is also vital.

Tackling climate change with energy efficiency

Manufacturers in the pharmaceutical industries, as in other sectors, need to use energy in order to keep their lights on. However, many companies now recognise the importance of breaking the connection between growth and unsustainable levels of resource and energy consumption.

The Paris Agreement on climate change has set the tone for the global fight against global warming and environmental degradation. Pharmaceutical companies can show their support for this battle by setting clear targets and action plans for reducing energy consumption and emissions, and working towards carbon neutrality within the coming decades.

Making employee wellbeing a priority

The pharmaceutical industry relies on the skill, innovation and hard work of its talented workforce. Without their driven, imaginative employees, pharmaceutical companies would be unable to supply their customers with high-quality products. The value brought by the people behind the brands should be repaid with extremely high standards of occupational safety, and efforts to support employees’ health and wellbeing. Employers should be considering how they can reduce accidents and injuries, not only because of the distress they bring to employees, but also because this contributes to the loss of precious working hours.

Diversity and equal opportunities

All the evidence from the considerable body of research into the subject has shown that work environments which are diverse and inclusive allow staff to do more outstanding, thoughtful and creative work.

Every individual brings unique qualities to the table. To ensure that you’re providing equal opportunities and treating everyone as a valuable member of the team, it’s important to conduct regular wage gap analysis. This can quickly highlight any issues and allow you to implement appropriate measures. The pharmaceutical industry can benefit from greater female participation, particularly in upper management and regional executive positions. It would also be wise for companies to work towards making their workforces more representative of the demographics of the local area. 

CSR leadership

Pharmaceutical companies cannot simply continue to produce goods and services in research, clinical development and commercial application. They need to accept that clients want to see companies being more responsible and genuinely interested in sustainability and corporate social responsibility, and begin to move in this direction. This requires companies to begin standing up, taking risks and working towards ambitious goals, and delivering on those goals.

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