As severe weather causes illness, injury, and death worldwide, it is impossible to ignore that the health of our communities and our planet are intrinsically linked. This fundamental truth puts the healthcare industry in a unique position: to align its purpose—enhancing societal health and preserving life—with the sustainable practices needed to mitigate environmental catastrophe.

If the healthcare industry was a country, it would be the fifth-largest emitter of carbon emissions on the planet. Biopharma companies have an essential role to play in decarbonising the industry. All aspects of the product lifecycle, from drug discovery to disposal, must fundamentally change to reduce the environmental pressures on the planet.

Readiness to transform

Leading biopharma companies are currently rebuilding their strategies to include sustainability objectives and goals. Committing to initiatives like ‘Value Chain Net-zero by 2045’ and ‘90+% Operational Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions by 2026’ has become expected. ​The challenge now faced by many of these companies, however, is translating these goals into actions that deliver meaningful transformation.
We acknowledge that much of this work is unprecedented. While we may have a clear vision of where we need to be, how we get there is nuanced and must evolve over time. First steps must take into consideration an organisation’s readiness to transform and the complexities implicit in a product’s lifecycle, including decade-long R&D lead times and strict regulatory requirements. Different approaches must be considered for new and on-market drugs.

  • Readiness to transform considers an organisation’s strategies, capabilities, and operating model; leadership and culture; and investment/ROI decisions. All are underpinned by broader definitions of business value across social, environmental, and economic factors.
  • Industry complexity considers the wider market forces accelerating or impeding progress. This could include tech and innovation developments, commercial and economic incentives and barriers, trade-offs between patient health and environmental health, changes to industry regulation, or industry groups collaborating on critical issues.
Platform for sustainable change

Simply put, sustainable transformation is hard, at times ambiguous, and often requires collaboration and innovation with external bodies and partner organisations. At 4C Life Sciences, we focus on six key areas to help our clients embed sustainability into their core strategy and the enabling operating model:

  1. Foundation buildingLeverage existing capabilities and resources to deliver sustainability objectives. Building the right foundations can be as simple as switching to renewable energy providers and introducing better waste management practices, or could include more complex initiatives, like setting science-based targets and deploying sustainability roadmaps.
  2. Capability model: Enterprise-wide capability identification and development. Sustainable transformation requires a workforce with the right expertise and skills. Developing the right capabilities today enables organisations to build resilient workforces who can respond and influence changing business requirements.
  3. Scope 3 reduction: Address scope 3 emissions through supplier ecosystems. Beyond target setting, data quality, and supplier collaboration, organisations can redefine how they manage their supplier base by introducing supplier ecosystems. Shaped by the therapeutic area, indication, or product, supplier ecosystems could help address supply chain complexities in delivering scope 3 reduction.
  4. Product development (commercialised drugs): Redesign existing products to reduce their environmental impact. While progress in this area is highly dependent on regulatory bodies’ willingness to engage in meaningful change, there is also potential for organisations to contribute through the development of novel solutions to minimise packaging and drug waste.
  5. Product development (new drugs): Design new medicines that minimise or eliminate the use of hazardous substances and materials. While drug efficacy and patient safety remain a key determinant in product development, greener chemistry practices could be applied across the product lifecycle including design, manufacture, use, and disposal.
  6. Clinical development: Design clinical trials to reduce carbon intensity and waste. With simplified trial designs, sustainable delivery models, and decentralised patient monitoring, clinical organisations can make inroads in reducing their carbon footprint. Enhancing patient diversity is also a moral imperative that should be address, albeit not the focus on this article.

When we think about an organisation’s readiness to transform in a complex industry environment, we can appreciate the challenges ahead, particularly in product and clinical development. Addressing these complete challenges will require industry-wide collaboration, adoption of emerging technologies, new operating models, and new ways of working.

Still, by building the right foundations and developing internal capabilities within the workforce, biopharma organisations can establish a platform for sustainable change that enables large-scale transformation, addresses urgent environmental issues, and ensures the industry remains in alignment with its purpose of enhancing and preserving societal health.

Here to help

At 4C, we work with a range of biopharma companies solving complex challenges across the life science value chain. If you would like to discuss what a platform for sustainable change means to your organisation, please get in touch with