Precision mixing of chemicals within a lab in the life sciences industry.

The inclusion of sustainability in the life sciences industry is crucial for managing its impact on the environment and maintaining economic stability in response to worldwide challenges.

This movement towards sustainability is influenced by various elements, notably global sustainability objectives like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement. These agreements demand immediate measures to address climate change and encourage sustainable growth.

 

The State of Sustainability in the Life Sciences Industry in 2024

The life sciences industry is working through the intricate issue of sustainability, striving to balance its critical role in improving global health with the need to reduce its environmental impact and improve social responsibility. This point is marked by both progress and obstacles, mirroring the industry’s attempts to meet global sustainability objectives while catering to the specific requirements of healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

The impact of global sustainability goals has been significant within the life sciences field. These agreements have sparked a renewed emphasis on adopting sustainable practices throughout the industry, from research and development to production and supply chain operations. The sector is increasingly acknowledged for its capacity to support a broad range of sustainability targets, including health and well-being (SDG 3), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) and climate action (SDG 13).

Sustainability in the life sciences industry features a wide variety of initiatives and innovations. There is a growing movement towards green chemistry and sustainable manufacturing processes, aimed at lessening the environmental impact of pharmaceutical and biotechnological outputs. Initiatives to improve supply chain sustainability are in progress, focusing on transparency, ethical sourcing and carbon footprint reduction.

There are also substantial challenges in fully adopting sustainability in its practices. High energy and water consumption, waste production and dependence on intricate global supply chains represent significant obstacles. Additionally, the need to ensure affordable access to healthcare and medications introduces further complexity to the industry’s sustainability efforts.

 

Key Sustainability Trends in the Life Sciences Industry

Commitment to Net Zero

Health systems produce 4–5% of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.¹

The aim to reach net zero emissions requires a comprehensive evaluation of operations, spanning from research and development processes to production and logistics. This goal encourages innovation in energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy and the development of cleaner production technologies. It sets an example for sustainability leadership within the global business environment.

Focus on Supply Chain Sustainability

The contribution of pharmaceuticals to health systems GHG emissions ranges from 10–55%.²

In acknowledgment of the significant influence of supply chains, life sciences organisations are more frequently implementing practices such as ethical sourcing, evaluations of supplier sustainability and partnerships to improve supply chain transparency and lessen environmental impacts. These actions help create a more sustainable and resilient supply chain, which is vital for the industry’s long-term sustainability.

Innovations in Sustainable Facilities

20% of the carbon footprint of the NHS was due to medicines and chemicals and an additional 5% was due to anaesthetic gases (2%) and inhalers (3%).³

The creation of sustainable facilities marks a considerable step towards reducing the environmental impact of life sciences operations. These advancements cut down on carbon emissions and energy as well as also acting as an example for sustainable practices in other industries. The shift towards such facilities showcases the industry’s dedication to incorporating sustainability into every facet of its operations.

 

Challenges to Sustainability in the Life Sciences Industry

Despite the life sciences industry’s role in improving global sustainability, it faces distinct challenges in aligning its operations with environmental goals.

The industry is marked by rapid innovation, vital for developing healthcare and treatment solutions. However, the quick pace of advancement and the resource-intensive nature of research and development activities present difficulties in reducing the environmental impact of these innovations. The industry must balance the demand for fast innovation with the need to decrease emissions and waste. This requires investments in green chemistry, sustainable R&D practices and energy-efficient technologies, which might entail significant initial costs and a re-evaluation of conventional development processes.

Dealing with the regulatory landscape while maintaining high ethical standards is a continuous challenge for the life sciences industry. Sustainability efforts often overlap with complex regulatory requirements that differ by region, complicating the execution of global sustainability strategies. Ensuring regulatory compliance while pursuing sustainability objectives can delay the introduction of green initiatives. Additionally, ethical concerns, especially in global supply chains and clinical trials, introduce another layer to the sustainability challenge, demanding thorough oversight and transparency.

A large part of an organisation’s environmental footprint in the life sciences industry is found within its supply chain. The global and complex nature of these supply chains makes it difficult to effectively implement and monitor sustainable practices. Achieving sustainability across intricate supply chains requires cooperation, transparency and investments in sustainable sourcing and logistics. The industry must manage the task of aligning various stakeholders with different capabilities and commitments to sustainability, calling for strong management strategies and innovative approaches.

The shift towards sustainable operations is often impeded by limited availability of green technologies and infrastructure, particularly in developing markets. The adoption of sustainable facilities and clean energy sources necessitates considerable investment and infrastructural backing. Overcoming this barrier involves financial investments and the establishment of partnerships and initiatives that can provide the needed technological and infrastructural support. This is especially important for smaller companies and those operating in areas where sustainable options are less available.

 

Opportunities and Strategies for Sustainable Life Sciences

The life sciences industry’s focus on sustainability presents a chance to reduce environmental and social impacts and to innovate, enhance operational efficiencies and support global health outcomes.

Innovating for Greener Solutions

Strategy: Encourage innovation in green chemistry, sustainable biotechnology and sustainable manufacturing methods. Investing in research and development that focuses on reducing environmental impact can result in the creation of new, more sustainable products and services.

Opportunity: This strategy lowers the industry’s environmental impact and establishes organisations as frontrunners in sustainability. This positions them well to enter new markets and respond to the increasing demand for green healthcare solutions.

Enhancing Supply Chain Transparency

Strategy: Put into practice wide-ranging sustainability measures throughout the supply chain, from ethical sourcing to the reduction of carbon emissions in logistics. Initiatives aimed at increasing transparency, like the publication of sustainability reports and the adoption of certifications from independent third parties, can assist in tracking and sharing progress.

Opportunity: By enhancing the sustainability of the supply chain, organisations can improve their brand’s integrity and the trust they receive from consumers and stakeholders. This also helps in managing risks linked to environmental regulations and fluctuating commodity prices, leading to more robust operations.

Leveraging Digital Health Technologies

Strategy: Employ digital health technologies to improve sustainability in healthcare provision. The use of telemedicine, electronic health records and artificial intelligence-driven diagnostics can lessen the demand for physical resources and streamline patient care processes.

Opportunity: Digital health technologies provide the dual advantages of broadening healthcare access and decreasing the environmental footprint of medical services. They facilitate a move towards preventative care and personalised medicine, minimising unnecessary resource consumption and improving patient outcomes.

Collaborating for Sustainable Healthcare

Strategy: Participate in partnerships throughout the healthcare ecosystem, involving governments, non-governmental organisations, patients and other industries, to advance sustainability initiatives. Collaborative actions can result in the exchange of best practices, collective investments in sustainable infrastructure and the establishment of industry-wide norms.

Opportunity: Working together offers a more unified and effective method for addressing sustainability, combining resources and expertise to face shared obstacles. It also helps in aligning healthcare objectives with wider environmental and social aims, boosting the industry’s input to global sustainability efforts.

Prioritizing ESG in Corporate Strategy

Strategy: Incorporate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards into the corporate strategy and investment choices. This involves establishing explicit sustainability targets, tracking and disclosing ESG achievements, and involving stakeholders in sustainability initiatives.

Opportunity: A robust ESG framework improves investor trust and stakeholder engagement, positioning the life sciences industry in line with the increasing international emphasis on sustainable investment. It also aids in recognising risks and opportunities associated with sustainability, leading to more knowledgeable decision-making processes.

 

Why do Life Sciences Organisations choose McGrady Clarke?

Life sciences organisations choose McGrady Clarke for our specialised expertise in reducing energy costs, achieving compliance with environmental regulations and advancing sustainability. We provide tailored energy procurement solutions and efficiency evaluations to lower operating costs and optimise research and development processes, alongside carbon management services to assist life sciences organisations in reducing their carbon emissions and adhering to regulatory standards.

Our services are precisely tailored to meet the unique requirements of the life sciences industry, ensuring economic gains while promoting sustainability. This positions us as a preferred partner for organisations striving to improve financial success and environmental stewardship.

 

References

¹ Booth, A., Jager, A., Faulkner, S.D., Winchester, C.C., & Shaw, S.E. (2023). Pharmaceutical Company Targets and Strategies to Address Climate Change: Content Analysis of Public Reports from 20 Pharmaceutical Companies. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(4), 3206. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20043206. Licensed under CC BY 4.0.

² Booth, A., Jager, A., Faulkner, S.D., Winchester, C.C., & Shaw, S.E. (2023). Pharmaceutical Company Targets and Strategies to Address Climate Change: Content Analysis of Public Reports from 20 Pharmaceutical Companies. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(4), 3206. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20043206. Licensed under CC BY 4.0.

³  Booth, A., Jager, A., Faulkner, S.D., Winchester, C.C., & Shaw, S.E. (2023). Pharmaceutical Company Targets and Strategies to Address Climate Change: Content Analysis of Public Reports from 20 Pharmaceutical Companies. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(4), 3206. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20043206. Licensed under CC BY 4.0.