Environmental sustainability is an important goal for companies, including pharmaceutical companies. Efforts in energy conservation, reduction of greenhouse-gas (GHS) emissions, and programs in green chemistry involving solvent reduction and water-based methods in manufacturing are some examples of how companies seek to meet goals in environmental sustainability
In September 2011, Merck & Co. issued its 2010 global corporate responsibility report, which highlighted its efforts in environmental sustainability. These efforts including setting specific goals, establishing metrics, adopting best practices, and implementing specific project work in the areas of energy efficiency, water conservation, and green chemistry.
One area of focus is energy efficiency. Merck has a Center of Excellence in Energy that is responsible for identifying and implementing best practices for reducing energy use across the company. Because the majority of the company’s demand for energy occurs at manufacturing, warehousing, laboratory, and major office facilities, the company targets these types of facilities for programs for energy-demand reduction. In 2008, the Center of Excellence in Energy developed efficiency metrics for all major energy-using systems at Merck to evaluate performance. The company also developed a Best Practices Evaluation Tool, which sites use to evaluate how well they meet best practices and identify opportunities to improve. The tool looks at 14 categories of energy demand, including HVAC, steam distribution, meters, lighting, and compressed air. In 2005, the company adopted a corporate goal to reduce the intensity of its energy demand at its research, manufacturing, and other major office facilities by 25% per unit area (measured in millions of BTUs/ft2) by the end of 2008 from a baseline year of 2004. The company exceeded that goal by reducing its energy demand by 28% in that timeframe. In 2009, the company established an improvement target of 10% for the period of 2009 to 2015, using 2009 performance as a baseline. Projects being developed and used to reach that goal include multiple renewable energy initiatives, installation of variable speed drives, reassessment of production, green research and office buildings, and the use of free cooling and heat recovery from recirculating water systems, according to the report.
With respect to GHS emissions, Merck reports GHS through the Carbon Disclosure Project, an annual reporting of listed companies of their GHS emissions. In February 2008, Merck announced a corporate goal to reduce GHS emissions from the company’s global facilities and automobiles by 12% by the end of 2012 from a baseline year of 2004. In 2009, Merck achieved and exceeded this GHG reduction. The company set a second-phase GHS reduction goal of an additional 10% by 2015, based on 2009 performance, according to its report.
Water conservation also is an important goal. Merck established a goal to reduce its demand for water by 15% between 2009 and 2015 and by 25% between 2009 and 2020. The company’s strategy for improving water-use efficiency includes reducing overall demand for water, controlling water discharge, and understanding the water-related challenges in the regions in which the company operates. During 2010, the company used 9 billion gallons of water compared to 8.1 billion gallons in 2009. The increase was due to the addition of a new operating facility that uses 1.9 billion gallons of surface water. Facilities that were operating in 2009 and continue to operate in 2010 achieved an 11% decrease in water demand during 2010, according to the report. Approximately 69% of the total water the company uses is from surface and ground water. A large use of water is for utility systems in API manufacturing plants, which require large volumes of cooling water. In 2010, approximately 53% of its water usage globally was for once-through noncontact cooling, where water is pumped into the plant, circulated through heat-exchange piping to cool processes, and then discharged.
Strategies to reduce water usage include assignment of a waste manager at each major site who is responsible for identifying water-reduction opportunities, implementing best practices, and conducting water audits to identify leaks and opportunities to reduce water use. Some examples of best practices include controlling cooling systems operations, repairing steam-distribution systems and traps, recovering and reusing steam condensate and water-purification reject water, optimizing production of process water, avoiding the use of water in mechanical seals, such as in pumps, and considering the total cost of water in project evaluation, according to the report.
On a green-chemistry basis, the company has several initiatives in place, including solvent reduction, the use of water-based methods in pharmaceutical manufacturing, and ongoing programs for reducing emissions, effluents, and wastes.
Pfizer recognized for sustainability
Other companies also are pursuing sustainability goals and practices. A specific example of sustainability at work at a production facility is Pfizer’s facility in Freiburg, Germany. Pfizer Manufacturing Deutschland GmbH recently won the 2011 Facility of the Year Award for Sustainability for its Strategic Plant Restructuring and Energy Master Plan (SPRING and E-MAP) project for its facility in Freiburg, Germany. The Facility of the Years Award program, which is awarded by the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineers (ISPE), recognizes pharmaceutical manufacturing projects that use new and innovative technologies to enhance quality as well as reduce the cost of producing pharmaceuticals. Now in its seventh year, the awards program accepted submissions from more than 25 countries and territories. An independent judging panel consisting of global senior-level executives from the industry reviewed the submissions, according to a Nov. 7, 2011 ISPE press release.
In earning the award, the Pfizer’s Freiburg facility was recognized for innovative technologies and automation as part of a long-term sustainability program. Some highlights include a fully automated material flow system, multipurpose automation systems, paperless order documentation, the facility’s use of computer-integrated manufacturing systems, a wood-pellet boiler system for powering air-conditioning systems, and other advanced manufacturing and energy-efficiency practices and design. These elements were cited for contributing to an overall sustainability program and cost-efficient production. Additional analysis of the Freiburg facility will be examined in an upcoming edition of Sourcing and Management.
Separately, in an upcoming issue of Sourcing and Management, Neuland Laboratories will examine an eco-friendly route to the manufacture of rufinamide.