Today organizations are more aware of carbon emissions and environmental protection. Pharmaceutical industries can’t be far behind. This article explores ways to build a greener pharmaceutical supply chain.
As the world is moving towards a greener future, industries need to follow suit. One such industry that needs to put in efforts to become eco-friendly is the pharmaceutical industry. With the increasing demand for medicines and the rise of chronic diseases, the pharmaceutical industry must produce more drugs. The global pharmaceutical logistics market, estimated at USD 85.24 billion in 2022, is projected to expand at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.2% from 2023 to 2030.
However, it is also essential for the industry to focus on building a greener pharmaceutical supply chain to reduce its carbon footprint and help protect the environment. Cold transport is one of the culprits of the rise in carbon footprint in the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Recent Developments in the Pharma Industry
The pharmaceutical industry’s overriding attitude to single-use of products and the resultant wastage results in its emission intensity is 55% higher than the automotive industry’s. Recent research by My Green Lab presented that the value chain emissions by pharma companies are likely to be almost five times higher than those from in-house operations and energy consumption.
During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the global pharma supply chain faced the challenge of safely handling the fast shipping of millions of vaccines worldwide in secured, temperature-controlled containers. This disruption in the pharmaceutical supply chain forced the supply chain industry to realize the following:
- Need for Environment-Friendly Alternatives. To ensure the safe transportation of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical or healthcare products worldwide, using traditional methods without leveraging the latest technology and data will not work. The industry needs more environment-friendly and technology-driven alternatives.
- Reuse and Recycle. There can be a method to adopt sustainability even before transportation. One such solution could be what is popularly known as a ‘hybrid’ container. These smart containers can monitor and regulate the temperature in real time by leveraging smart technology to reduce CO2 emissions by lowering additional energy requirements. These are designed to minimize the waste of single-use solutions by leveraging reusability.
Cold Chain Transport
The concept of cold transport is rising in demand with combined causes of increased demand for temperature-sensitive products and global warming. Most pharmaceutical products are usually temperature sensitive, with sometimes a limited shelf life. There is especially a significant market expansion of heat-sensitive health products worldwide. The global Refrigerated Trailer Market is estimated to be worth USD 2.7 billion by 2030.
Tips for Greener Pharmaceutical Supply Chain
Here are some ways the pharmaceutical industry can build a greener supply chain:
- Use Sustainable Packaging Materials. Pharmaceutical companies can reduce their environmental impact by using sustainable packaging materials. The industry is notorious for producing a lot of packaging waste, which can take a long time to break down and contribute to pollution. Companies can switch to biodegradable materials such as paper or plant-based plastics that can decompose naturally, reducing the impact of packaging waste.
- Implement Energy-Efficient Manufacturing Practices. The manufacturing process is one of the most energy-intensive phases of pharmaceutical production. Pharmaceutical companies can reduce their carbon footprint by implementing energy-efficient manufacturing practices. For instance, companies can use energy-efficient equipment, optimize production schedules, and use renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power to power their plants.
- Reduce the Use of Water. Water scarcity is a growing concern worldwide, and industries must conserve water. The pharmaceutical industry can reduce water consumption by implementing water-saving technologies such as recycling and reusing wastewater, reducing water usage during production, and using rainwater harvesting techniques.
- Collaborate with Suppliers. Collaborating with suppliers is essential to building a greener pharmaceutical supply chain. Pharmaceutical companies can work with their suppliers to ensure that they are environmentally responsible and that their products comply with environmental regulations. Companies can also encourage suppliers to adopt green practices such as using renewable energy, reducing water usage, and minimizing packaging waste.
- Implement Sustainable Transportation. Transportation is another significant contributor to the carbon footprint of the pharmaceutical industry. Companies can implement sustainable transportation practices such as using hybrid or electric vehicles, optimizing delivery routes to minimize transportation, and encouraging employees to use public transport or carpooling to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Adopt a Circular Economy Model. The circular economy model is gaining popularity worldwide as a sustainable approach to production and consumption. The model aims at reducing waste and pollution by keeping resources in use for as long as possible, extracting maximum value from them. After the end of their service life, the materials are usually recovered and regenerated. Pharmaceutical companies can adopt a circular economy model by using recycled materials, designing products for reuse or recycling, and implementing take-back programs to collect and recycle products.
- Embrace Digitalization. Digitalization can significantly reduce the environmental impact of the pharmaceutical industry. Digital tools such as electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic batch records (EBR), and automation systems can help reduce paper usage and streamline processes, reducing energy consumption and waste.
The pharmaceutical industry has a history of emissions, waste, and unsustainable behavior. However, the growing awareness and concerns from consumers, governments, and stakeholders obligated companies to start planning to minimize their carbon footprint, and thus the impact of pharmaceutical supply chain activities came to focus.
Pharmaceutical companies must build a greener supply chain to reduce their carbon footprint, conserve natural resources, and protect the environment. By implementing sustainable practices such as using sustainable packaging materials, energy-efficient manufacturing practices, reducing water usage, collaborating with suppliers, adopting a circular economy model, embracing digitalization, and implementing sustainable transportation practices, the pharmaceutical industry can build a greener future.
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