Trends, challenges and priorities

There are many sobering statistics available on the rate at which natural resources are being consumed, the speed at which global temperatures are rising, and the impact this will have on people’s lives. The global consensus is that limiting global temperature rise is imperative. In line with the Paris Agreement (2016) , many organizations across the biopharmaceutical industry have either set or are setting their own science-based targets for reducing environmental impacts, which demand a clearly-defined path to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the end to end value chain.

According to mygreenlab (,

“The global biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry has a carbon footprint larger than the semiconductor industry, the forestry and paper industry, and equal to nearly half the annual emissions of the United Kingdom.”

biophorum post images sustainability program 397

BioPhorum Sustainability represents a deep partnership across the value chain. Our program is jointly designed, governed and delivered by a membership drawn from licence holders, contract manufacturers, major suppliers and niche suppliers. This dynamic partnership has meant that we can quickly focus on the areas that have the greatest industry impact, and we can leverage learning from each other and other sectors – the chemical industry and the built environment for example.

Our members have identified two ambitious goals to deliver our 2050 vision – decarbonization and embedding circularity. This will reduce carbon footprint across the value chain, whilst simultaneously reducing waste and extraction.

Transitioning to a more sustainable biopharmaceutical industry

Developing a sustainability industry roadmap has been our focus for 2022 – an important guidance document and a first for the industry. The roadmap defines the key problems the industry needs to address and the actions/enablers to solve them. It specifically looks at the biopharma industry with a focus on raw materials, manufacturing, distribution and use/end of life. Its timeline is now to a sustainable future state in 2050.

High Impact opportunity

Energy usage and emissions
GSK shared guidance with the industry as early as 2017, noting that ”the primary carbon contributions are from the manufacturing facilities, and thus these facilities should be a primary area of focus for carbon footprint reduction across the biopharmaceutical industry. Carbon contribution from material inputs, packaging, labeling and transportation are minor in comparison. Energy-efficient design and operation of the facilities, especially the facilities’ HVAC systems, plant utilities, and process utilities, should be thoroughly evaluated when attempting to reduce greenhouse emissions associated with biological products.”

Biologics manufacturing processes are water intense. Clean water is scarce in many geographical areas, which poses risks of operational shutdowns, which could in turn affect business continuity and ultimately patient access.   Industry knowledge and expertise is developing in this field but there remains a lack of widely accepted, innovative, or technical solutions, which inhibits the use of reduce/reuse/recycle technologies, especially where regulatory and quality requirements are considered.

Single use systems have made a valuable contribution to the industry through flexibility, quality and speed to market (as demonstrated through Covid19. However, plastic waste and its incineration (which results from the current linear model of production) conflicts with emissions, pollution, and waste targets. Coupled with the fact that the design of the materials is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and high-impact materials, through BioPhorum the industry is committed to the responsible deployment of plastics and is working hard to quantify plastics volumes to provide critical data to demonstrate plastic waste flows, connect with potential recycling solutions, and identify opportunities for circularity and sustainable material design.

These industry priorities and high impact opportunities are the basis for all our work within BioPhorum Sustainability:

  1. By establishing decarbonization goals and priorities, we gain common language for organizations to communicate and engage across the value chain – we’re seeing this within our Scope 3 workstream as we identify the categories with the biggest impact
  2. By demonstrating how circularity applies to biopharma, our members understand the opportunities and how they can actually de-risk activities and ensure security of supply
  3. Standardization is critical for transparency on sustainability targets – for example, we’re starting the process of facilitating data flows on GHG emissions and determining a range of plastics baselines for use and waste to support responsible deployment
  4. Through sharing best practice in-industry and beyond, the Phorum is identifying where collaborative innovation will accelerate lead times through proof of concepts and joint research, which in turn will accelerate adoption
  5. The changes required to move towards net zero and more circular processes will come with regulatory requirements – signposting these to prepare for change is a key part of the Phorum’s work. As is preparing for an unprecedented scale of change to filed processes and technologies. To this end, we’re working closely with the regulatory governance team to make best use of their work on post-approval change management and Quality by Design
  6. Inspiring and igniting engagement from all parts of the talent pool, the roadmap is a call to action for all; from highlighting where direction and commitment is needed from the highest levels, through to best practice on embedding sustainability operationally, from R&D to procurement. To facilitate this, we’re working on industry-wide education on key concepts, further developing that common language for all.

We have a unique opportunity within the BioPhorum family to connect strategy and policy to practical application. We are the only focussed E2E collaboration within the biopharma industry addressing sustainability

We are actively thinking about how to tap into the 7000+ changemakers we have in our network to accelerate the industries sustainability progress across all fronts. How can we accelerate adoption of previous work developed in the name of efficiency, but which also affords the industry significant sustainability benefit – the adoption of closed systems as an example. How can sustainability add further weight to the business case for much needed change around data and digitization – traceability of raw materials as an example. Over time we expect that sustainability initiatives will become embedded within each of our Phorum programs, and that BioPhorum Sustainability will guide progress through education, policy setting and in some areas cross-phorum working.

Sustainability deliverables November 2021 to November 2022

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