Express Pharma

Sustainability in Pharma– Leapfrogging into a Carbon Neutral World

Express Pharma, in association with SAP India, as part of the Life Sciences Industry Knowledge Exchange Forum, recently hosted a virtual event to examine initiatives taken by India Pharma Inc on sustainability so far and discuss its readiness and roadmap to comply with existing and upcoming regulations

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As an important stakeholder of global health security, the pharma sector must embrace sustainability as one of its tenets. Yet, it has faced allegations in the past of not shouldering its responsibility towards the environment. For instance, a report titled, ‘Carbon footprint of the global pharmaceutical industry and relative impact of its major players,’ reveals that the pharma industry is 55 per cent more emission-intensive than the automotive industry.

So, whether it is implementing efficient processes through optimal utilisation of resources, ensuring regulatory compliance, developing tailored programmes to eliminate inefficiencies in their supply chain, better waste disposal systems, implementing measures to conserve energy and water, reducing carbon footprint or constructing greener buildings and facilities, there is a lot of scope for the pharma sector to ramp up its efforts towards being more environment-friendly. And, this calls for a change in vision, strategies, management practices, and operations in pharma organisations.

Therefore, as part of the Industry Knowledge Exchange Series, Express Pharma, in association with SAP, recently organised a panel discussion on Sustainability in Pharma Industry – Leapfrogging into a Carbon Neutral World.

Held on September 22, 2021, in this session, leaders and experts came together to examine initiatives taken by India Pharma Inc on sustainability so far and discuss its readiness and roadmap to comply with existing and upcoming regulations. For instance, SEBI’s new mandate to the top 1,000 listed companies by market cap to provide details of their material environmental, social, governance risks opportunities and strategies to alleviate or adapt to the risks along with financial implications under a new business responsibility and sustainability report (BRSR) format by 2023.

It also examined the role of technology in enabling pharma organisations to comply with such regulations as well as monitor and maximise their sustainability footprint.

The introductory addresses, given by Viveka Roychowdhury, Editor, Express Pharma and Express Healthcare; and Rajesh Kuppuswamy, Life Sciences and Health Care Industry Advisor, SAP set the context for a very insightful discussion which addressed key questions such as:

  • How are pharma companies in India preparing for a transition into more sustainable organisations?
  • What are the low hanging fruits to meet their ESG targets?
  • Are pharma companies in India making substantial investments in sustainability, beyond a ‘greenwash’?
  • And what role does technology play in helping pharma companies achieve and exceed their ESG targets?

Highlighting the importance of the issue slated for discussion, Roychowdhury said, “Globally, pharma has historically scored poorly in ESG ratings but with a reputation boost from the sector’s speedy response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are signs that action on the ESG side are now being seen with an urgency … as COVID-19 underlined the link between climate change and health…”

She added that certain pharma companies in India have already made initial forays on the Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) front over the past few years. And their tribe was set to increase as newer regulations, like the SEBI mandate, come into existence.

Next, Rajesh Kuppuswamy, Life Sciences and Health Care Industry Advisor, SAP gave a brief introduction to the knowledge exchange forum, its purpose and the rationale behind the topics chosen for the sessions. He said that the aim was to understand how specific functions within the industry were able to perform in the light of not just the pandemic, but also multiple forces which were impacting the industry. He said that the forum sought to bring the industry together to discuss topics of interest, understand the latest challenges, and find ways to overcome them.

Speaking on sustainability, he informed that be it investors, shareholders, regulators or consumers, are all demanding responsibly-derived products and services with a smaller environmental footprint. So, businesses have to become sustainably profitable and profitably sustainable.

Pointing out that sustainability is a journey and not a destination; he said that there are three big milestones in this journey: Compliance with regulations, making processes sustainable, and eventually, the highest level of maturity, i.e. creating sustainable products, services and business models. Kuppuswamy also said that optimising the use of the technology can help derive the best insights to take appropriate actions across different processes.

The panel discussion that followed also had some great takeaways for the attendees of the event. ESG veterans from the pharma industry like Rajan Sharma, Vice President & Head Corporate EHS, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals; Thakur Pherwani, Global Head SHE & Sustainability, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and Bhavesh Trivedi, Head EHS, Zydus Cadila, and industry consultants and tech experts, Avinaw Prasad, Associate Director, Deloitte, and Amar Jadhav, Senior Solution Architect, SAP India, who have seen various sectors put in place sustainability agendas, shared their experiences and insights.

Some of the major learnings were as follows:

Sustainability is gaining prominence: A poll posed at the beginning of this discussion asked attendees to vote whether pharma leaders believed that sustainability initiatives can deliver financial value. And, an overwhelming 89 per cent answered in the affirmative. The result clearly showed that gone are the days when environmental sustainability and business growth were considered as opposite ends of the spectrum.

The leaders and experts on the panel also reiterated these findings.

Prasad from Deloitte said that in the short term there could be a certain degree of investment required. But, in the journey towards becoming more sustainable businesses and mitigating the risks, a lot of value can be generated because the technologies were becoming cleaner and a lot of jobs will be created through the adoption of new technologies. Thus, the investment would create new businesses across the value chain.

Pherwani from Dr Reddy’s gave some good examples of sustainability initiatives that have been implemented in his organisation. He informed that his company was looking at a ‘sustainability by design’ approach in operations wherein all aspects of a business with respect to people safety, quality, availability, environment, engineering excellence, productivity, continuous improvement, and community were considered to create shared value for all the stakeholders.

He said that while Dr Reddy’s sustainability strategy was divided into the verticals of environment, social and governance, the primary focus was on the environmental dimensions of wastewater management, energy neutrality, circularity etc. The company has set key goals for 2030 and was steadily working towards achieving them, he informed.

Pherwani emphasised that pharma businesses need to take sustainabil