The importance of sustainability in business is no longer questionable. It is 2022 and it is a business-critical matter regardless of sector or location. In recent years, COVID-19 has understandably dominated much of the attention of the global pharmaceutical market; however, climate change has not disappeared.
As we look forward, Luca Danesi, Chief Sales Officer, Pharma Division - Europe, shares his insight into the major trends shaping the pharmaceutical industry, what challenges customers need the most help with, and the increasing importance of environmental regulations.
What are the major trends shaping the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to sustainability?
Waste reduction, reuse and recycling are the main topics shaping sustainable best practices in the sector. And these three endeavors are being applied across the spectrum of activities. From manufacturing equipment that must be recyclable — and recycled — at the end of its life to reducing the intake of natural resources, these are big actions that are already changing the face of the industry.
Many other industries are focusing on water reuse as a means of limiting their impact on the environment. Knowing that reuse is limited in the pharmaceutical market, how do you see this being developed, if at all?
“Many pharmaceutical processes require highly purified water which must adhere to strict regulatory standards. This understandably limits reuse options but we need to focus on the balancing act of reusing water for cleaning, cooling and irrigation. For the companies that take in 50 to 60 tonnes of fresh water every day, there is a physical limitation, and one day soon water of this quantity will become unavailable — and not just in certain parts of Asia and Africa. Reuse is a tool companies can use to combat these physical limitations and hopefully more will invest sooner rather than later, as water scarcity threatens business continuity. This, coupled with public awareness of climate change and water scarcity, means businesses need to ensure the planet survives. To ensure this we need precautions to become mandatory, not just suggested as they are in many parts of the world.”
When it comes to resource management challenges, where does the biggest risk lie?
“Ensuring the uninterrupted availability of pharmaceutical-grade water. It is the most critical utility in the pharmaceutical environment, often required 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and without it, production stops. As more and more areas succumb to climate change and the prevalence of water scarcity increases, we see many companies adopting ambitious targets to cut water consumption to protect the water they do have access to as local resources are squeezed.”
How do you envision the next milestone in creating a greener planet through water advocacy?
“Water reuse has several limitations in pharma but, within these boundaries, there are opportunities and so understanding these and significantly reducing and reusing water wherever possible is the next milestone. For example, new equipment can greatly reduce the amount of concentrated water going to the drain.”
During the pandemic, what were the biggest changes you witnessed in the pharmaceutical market?
“It was mass overnight globalization. The increase in production was vast — and this was not just in the pharmaceutical companies making finished drugs but also medical device manufacturers and the contract development and manufacturing companies (i.e. CDMO) — everyone working in and on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry was impacted. As a result, these bodies needed services and support, from the increase in readily available materials and natural resources to waste management.”
How did you support your customers to deal with these changes?
“The inability to travel, visit sites and inspect equipment had the potential to cause severe disruption; however, owing to our remote monitoring and inspection tools we were able to continue ‘business as usual’. Hubgrade is the combination of digital tools and the expertise of our team which means even remotely we could guarantee key performance indicators (KPIs), continuously provide service and monitor any parts. Even in these difficult times, many of our customers, not just those in pharma, have managed to grow, even some in double digits.”
What does the new normal look like for pharmaceutical manufacturers?
“All business sectors are now facing very difficult issues in regards to materials availability and lead time, so we are working with many of our customers to optimize and extend the life of existing equipment to ensure business continuity. We are achieving this by ensuring equipment is maintained correctly which means more and more customers are requiring services such as the supply of spares, consumables and water treatment chemicals.”
Particular attention is being placed on preventing pharmaceuticals from entering the aquatic environment. How important a role do environmental regulations play in regards to overcoming this issue?
“This is a critical subject for the sake of biodiversity and human health. We know better now than to throw wastewater contaminated with toxics and solvents into the incinerator or wastewater free from these substances into landfill; however, at the moment there is no legal requirement to do so, just good guidance and goodwill. We should be looking to those countries leading the way when treating and reusing wherever possible — remembering the limitations mentioned earlier —, turning the wastewater into a resource, as opposed to relying on the tap.”