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Towards sustainability

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Sustainability measures achieve the twin benefits of reducing operating costs while simultaneously meeting environmental goals

201706ep0002-1As pharma companies in India gear up to implement the GST from July 1, there were the usual complaints that not enough was done for the sector. We will be closely tracking the finer nuances of GST’s impact on the sector as companies move into actual implementation post June 1, watch out for more coverage in the June 16-30 issue.

Over the past few years, Express Pharma has dedicated the first issue of June to a World Environment Day special. It is our effort to take stock of how pharma companies in India are moving towards being more environmentally friendly and sustainable. In this issue, we focus on the green measures taken by Glenmark Pharma and Fourrts Laboratories.

Solution providers to pharma companies too are on the same path. For instance, Lindstrom, reportedly the largest workwear rental company in India, recycles its products. Caliber Technologies urges companies to move to paperless labs. Similarly, Ideal Cures offers eco-friendly excipients which reduce the use of organic solvents in the coating process.

The 2017 Global Packaging Trends report highlighted how consumer focus on wellness, environmental impact and macroeconomic factors such as the growth of the middle class creating more disposable income are shaping the global packaging market. Customers across all sectors including pharma, are demanding minimal and less packaging waste while increases in the price of virgin materials are also driving demand for recycled materials. The report also predicts that as companies increasingly focus on sustainability, there will be growing demand for more energy-efficient machines, as companies seek to reduce their carbon footprint as well as energy costs.

Pharma companies have realised that while the upfront investment in green technologies may pinch in the short term, the long-term RoI is assured. Sustainability measures achieve the twin benefits of reducing operating costs while simultaneously meeting environmental goals. Hence there is an increasing move towards sustainable practices. With India as a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they really have no choice.
Global pharma companies like Abbvie, Allergan, Astra Zeneca, Baxter, Bayer, Biogen, Boehringer Ingelheim, BMS, Catalent, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lily, Mallinckrodt, Merck, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Shire, Takeda, Teva & West are part of the Pharma Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI), which aims to create better social, economic, health, safety and environmental outcomes for all those involved in the pharma supply chain. PSCI in association with partners like the ACS Green Chemistry Institute and Green ChemisTree Foundation organise industry meets to encourage innovation while catalysing the integration of green chemistry and green engineering in the pharma industry. The activities of the roundtable reflect its members’ shared belief that the pursuit of green chemistry and engineering is imperative for business and environmental sustainability. Strategic insights like the need to incorporate sustainability into all development and innovation activities would reap dividends in years to come.

The most recent meets supported by the PSCI was last February in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, two cities with a high concentration of pharma manufacturing plants. The choice of venue was very apt, as the growth of the pharma sector in this region has unfortunately been at the cost of the environment and human life. On May 2, two workers died and four were injured in a fire at Azico Biophore, and active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City (JNPC) at Parawada, about 50 km from Visakhapatnam.

The same company had had its licence suspended by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board last October for not adhering to norms on waste disposal. The order was revoked a few months later after ensuring compliance of norms, according to reports in the media.

But in spite of these incidents, most major pharma companies in India seem to be well on the green path. In fact, experts at the World Resources Institute India suggest that with the sector’s expertise in managing indoor air quality in manufacturing areas, industry leaders can drive similar best practices, learnings and collaborative engagement on ambient air quality management as well. While this might seem a huge leap today, especially in the light of the Azico Biophore incident, there is always room for hope.

Viveka Roychowdhury, Editor
[email protected]

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