Recently, I attended the 2010 State of the Green Business Forum in Chicago to learn more about the latest and greatest achievements in green marketing, energy, carbon caps, new products, services and even business models that will help protect the life of our planet.
Whatever your impression may be about our progress in these areas, it is clear that the green movement and sustainability thinking has continued to make its way into board rooms and R&D labs despite the poor economy. I wonder what the pharmaceuticals industry can offer to help this momentum.
Here are three ideas that could help pharmaceutical and other medical companies jumpstart the greening of their industry.
- Package Inserts - The FDA requires all prescription products to carry within its package a detailed document about the products’ prescribing information. The PIs tend to be large pieces of paper that is typically folded into a tiny booklet and inserted into the package. While it is very important for pharmaceutical products to carry a PI, I wonder how many physicians and patients actually read the PI even once. One easy way to make a big impact is to begin using recycled paper for all PIs. In fact, what if the FDA made it mandatory for all pharmaceutical companies to print PIs and other marketing materials on post-consumer recycled paper? I wonder how many trees we would save every time you get a cold.
- Green Packaging - How many pharmaceutical products have you seen where the size of the package is two or three times larger than the size of the product? Whether is an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicine, medical device or at-home diagnostic test kits, the inefficiency in packaging is standard across the board. What if pharmaceutical companies begin to economize their packaging and use materials that are easy to recycle while protecting the medicine inside? They would see significant savings in the total product cost that could be passed on the consumers and additionally, the savings from lower shipping costs due to smaller packages could increase their profit too.
- Energy - This is a big ticket item – switching to renewable sources of energy is no easy task, nor cheap. However, if a typical clinical trial can cost a pharmaceutical company upwards of $2 million, then it should not be so difficult for large pharmaceutical corporate campuses to begin spending on solar panels. They would be surprised to see that the ROI on a concentrated photovoltaic system (CPV) is almost as good as the ROI on one of their drugs, if not better and quicker.