Pharma must improve sustainability reporting

December 18, 2009
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

Analysis examining voluntary environmental and social reporting for 26 of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies has revealed that many big players, including Pfizer, have room for improvement.

Analysis examining voluntary environmental and social reporting for 26 of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies has revealed that many big players, including Pfizer, have room for improvement.

The analysis, conducted by the Roberts Environmental Center (REC) at Claremont McKenna College (CA, USA), scored companies on their transparency, intent and performance for both environmental and social issues. Although some companies did stand out, Bukola Jimoh, Lead Analyst, explained in a report: "As a whole, fewer than 60% of companies in the pharmaceutical sector mentioned efforts to increase access to healthcare and medicine in low income areas."

Data was collected from corporate websites during the initial analysis period. A draft sector report was then made available online and letters were sent to all the companies inviting them to review the analysis and provide additional information.

"Biogen Idec scored low in the rankings," Elgeritte Adidjaja, a research fellow at REC, explained in a press statement. "However, after speaking with a representative responsible for sustainability matters, the company appears to be committed to many environmental programmes, but they are not yet ready to make sustainability information public."

"Companies in the pharmaceutical sector place varying importance on sustainability reporting and transparency," Jimoh said in the report. "Top scorers provide extensive reports and web pages detailing their impact, vision, programmes and goals, while low scorers rarely mention corporate responsibility."

So who were the top scorers? Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and sanofi aventis, according to the report. Jimoh described the companies as "stellar examples for the rest of the sector" and highlighted the BMS Foundation, which is dedicated to reducing the extent of health disparities around the world, and sanofi aventis's contribution to similar programmes that help reduce global health disparities and access to medicine. Other companies that scored well include Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson and Merck.

At the other end of the scale, however, was Forest Laboratories, which scored the lowest. "Low scorers, such as Forest Laboratories and NBTY Inc. have especially poor environmental reporting and also largely ignored social issues on their websites, including access to healthcare in developing countries," said Jimoh.

She also added that the rankings were "slightly" correlated with company annual revenues; however, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, although scoring well, still have room for improvement considering they are the two largest companies in the sector. Conversely, eight of the lowest scoring companies were found to earn revenues of less than $5 billion.

According to the analysis, many companies have room for "extensive improvements" in their sustainability reporting; fewer than half of the sector's companies reported using environmental accounting, green purchasing and chemistry, or concern for biodiversity. Additionally, fewer than 60% of the companies mentioned climate change.

"The pharmaceuticals sector certainly should continue to address social issues on which it has a direct effect, such as health disparities, as well as the important environmental challenges all corporations face," explained Jimoh.

www.roberts.cmc.edu