Climate change has emerged as one of the most critical challenges of our era, affecting all sectors, particularly the pharmaceutical industry. The industry is considered a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, necessitating urgent action. A silver lining, however, is that the industry has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to sustainability.

In 2019, the Indian government launched the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) with an ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent before 2020. The pharmaceutical industry assumed a pivotal role in achieving this goal. 

The industry has embraced renewable energy solutions such as solar and wind power as key alternatives on a global scale. Research indicates that through the adoption of renewable energy, the industry has the potential to achieve a 40-70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

Renewable energy targets

In an effort to achieve this, States are establishing renewable energy targets, offering subsidies, facilitating power purchase agreements, and implementing net metering and feed-in tariffs to help reduce the carbon footprint of companies operating within their jurisdictions. Green energy certificates and industry-specific initiatives also enable environment for pharmaceutical companies to invest in renewable energy solutions.

The industry has demonstrated a firm commitment to improving energy efficiency within its manufacturing processes, driven by the need for energy conservation. According to a McKinsey report, the adoption of energy efficiency measures in the pharmaceutical sector has the potential to deliver energy savings of 20-30 per cent. 

Waste reduction

Through active initiatives to reduce waste generation and fostering circular practices, the industry is showcasing sustainability. By adopting these principles, a closed loop on waste generation is effectively achieved, diverting materials from landfills and encouraging their reuse. This approach effectively minimises environmental impact as well as maximises resource efficiency, contributing to a more sustainable future.

In addition to the industry’s efforts in renewable energy adoption, energy efficiency enhancement, and waste reduction, it embraces the principles of green chemistry to design and develop chemical products and processes that minimise the use and generation of hazardous substances. By integrating green chemistry principles, the industry can significantly reduce its environmental impact while promoting safer and more sustainable practices.

Green chemistry also offers numerous opportunities for innovation and improvement in the industry while promoting the concept of “benign by design”, where chemicals and materials are designed from the outset to have minimal impact on human health and the environment.

Additionally, the industry recognises the escalating threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and is leveraging the principles of green chemistry to tackle this global health crisis. The industry prioritises developing sustainable antibiotics and adopting responsible manufacturing practices to address AMR. 

Together, through the convergence of renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and green chemistry, the industry is redefining its role as a driving force in creating a healthier world for generations to come.

The writer is Executive Director & Global CFO, Lupin