Working Towards Zero Emissions

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology, August 2021 Issue, Volume 45, Issue 8

Pharma and biotech supply chain companies are working together to help facilitate the transition of the pharma industry to net zero emissions compliance.

In 2015, a global framework was set up to ensure dangerous climate change was avoided through efforts to limit global warming. The Paris Agreement is aimed at achieving climate-neutrality before the end of the century and is a universal, legally binding global agreement (1).

International governments and parties, such as the European Union and its member states, involved in the Paris Agreement have agreed to work on emissions reductions to meet the ultimate goal of the agreement. Additionally, countries have submitted national climate action plans in contribution to the objectives of the agreement. The EU’s most up-to-date and enhanced national determined contribution was published in December 2020 and specified a target to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to the levels in 1990 (2).

The environmental performance of the chemical industry, which includes pharmaceuticals, of the EU and its member states, that is to say, the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, has improved since 1990, according to the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) (3). However, there is still much work to do in order to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement.

A new association, Alliance to Zero, was formed earlier this year (2021) by eight companies representing the pharmaceutical supply chain, with the specific purpose of aiding the pharma sector with compliance to net zero GHG emissions (4). To learn more about this non-profit organization, Pharmaceutical Technology Europe spoke with Sebastian Gerner, president, Alliance to Zero.

Working together on climate change

PTE: Could you please provide a brief introduction to the Alliance to Zero association?

Gerner (Alliance to Zero): Alliance to Zero is a non-profit membership association for pharma and biotech supply chain companies that aims to facilitate the transition of the pharma sector to compliance with net-zero GHG emissions. As a working group with commonly shared goals, we will engage in collaboration with academia and non-profit organizations as well as sponsors projects. We will involve, connect, and coordinate suppliers, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, and service providers along the supply chain of pharma products. While the alliance is registered in Switzerland, the reach and intention of this membership association is global, and each of our founding companies have operations and facilities across the globe.

PTE: Why is it important for members of the pharmaceutical industry to participate in associations, such as Alliance to Zero?

Gerner (Alliance to Zero): Climate change is a global challenge that affects all of us. The Alliance to Zero is committed to developing a common standard for GHG emission reduction methodology within the pharmaceutical supply chain. The overarching goal is to collaboratively shape a net-zero emissions product offering, which is certified by a third party. This can only be reached with a powerful working group of individual suppliers co-developing net-zero standards and implementing them within the value chain.

Work in progress


PTE: What sort of work is already underway by the founding members of the association?

Gerner (Alliance to Zero): The alliance was founded on 1 June 2021 and is currently establishing working groups to progress on a net zero emission concept for pharmaceutical manufacturing and supply chain products. This foundational work also includes agreements on harmonized language and principles for the assessment and control of the total emissions footprint for the final pharmaceutical products, as well as the company-specific responsibilities.

PTE: How will the work progress? Could you provide a roadmap of what progress is expected to be achieved and the timeframe in which it will be done?

Gerner (Alliance to Zero): The alliance targets the commercial launch of net-zero pharmaceutical products in regulated markets by no later than 2030. To reach this date, the alliance founding members commit to developing a collaborative net-zero offering by 2026 to leave time for the pharmaceutical companies to finalize the overall product based on this offering.

Each alliance member has begun programmes to realize substantial GHG emission reduction that relates to their business responsibility and area of influence. The alliance is supporting those programmes via best-practice exchange and providing guidance and inputs on emission reduction or circular economy principles.

PTE: Will the work of the association be transferrable to other contributors/providers within the pharmaceutical sector?

Gerner (Alliance to Zero): The alliance started off as a working group of motivated companies, which came together to initiate a change in the industry. The alliance targets are being established to develop standards for the pharmaceutical industry and share a common language. Based on this approach, other companies could profit from and contribute to it.

Future expansion

PTE: Are there plans to expand the alliance in the future?

Gerner (Alliance to Zero): Currently the alliance represents the majority of the value chain along pharmaceutical injectable products. Initially, the work is intended for a small group of highly committed companies to set up the basic directions and get things started. Nevertheless, the alliance will accept applications from a few companies with high motivation for active input which would enrich the value chain and fill potential gaps in the near future.


1. EC, “Paris Agreement,”, accessed 26 July 2021.
2. EC and Germany, “Update of the NDC of the European Union and its Member States,”, 17 Dec. 2020.
3. Cefic, “2021 Facts and Figures of the European Chemical Industry: Environmental Performance,”, February 2021.
4. Alliance to Zero, “Alliance to Zero Founded to Achieve Net Zero Emissions Across the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain,” Press Release, 2 June 2021.

About the Author

Felicity Thomas is the European editor for Pharmaceutical Technology Group.

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 33, No. 8
August 2021
Pages: 40–41


When referring to this article, please cite it as F. Thomas, “Working Towards Zero Emissions” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 33 (8) 2021.