Tuesday, March 09, 2010

3 Green Ideas for Pharmaceuticals

Our blog today was submitted by Jairaj Mashru, a brand engagement manager with a passion for sustainability.

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
I am eager to see some change, so I would love to hear your ideas or comments on mine.


melanie said...

Jai, check out this website: http://www.noharm.org/
for more on environmental responsibility in health care.

The daily news and cool videos are really compelling.

Anonymous said...

The Sustainable Plastics Packaging conference, previously held three times in Europe, is coming to North America for the first time later this year. Plastics News Global Group is organizing the event Dec. 8-9 2010 in Atlanta.

Set against a backdrop of extreme political and environmental pressure on the packaging sector, this conference will bring together some 20 speakers to discuss all aspects of the plastics packaging supply chain -- from product design to manufacture.

Blow molder Amcor Rigid Plastics, thermoformer Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc. and extruder Kl√∂ckner Pentaplast Group are among the processors on the agenda. The lineup also includes senior officials from such firms as GreenBlue, Sustainable Minds, FirstCarbon Solutions, Netstal Machinery Inc., Innovationedge, Keller and Heckman LLP, Brandimage — Desgrippes & Laga, Packaging & Technology Integrated Solutions, UnaDyn, Packaging/Brody Inc., Plastic Technologies Inc. and Shelton Group, among others.

JoAnn Hines, an Atlanta-area consultant known as the “packaging diva,” also is on the program. She will assess what happens “when green goes bad,” such as in one high-profile case this week. In that instance, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America Inc. unit made a change to some of its SunChips snack packaging because the highly touted, compostable, biodegradable, polylactic-acid bags are too noisy.

The presenters will look at what sustainability means to brand owners, retailers and packaging companies. They’ll discuss the role of carbon footprinting and lifecycle analysis in packaging development and selection, explore new materials and process technologies that can reduce the environmental impact of plastics packaging production, assess the role of packaging design in ensuring sustainability targets are met, and suggest strategies for responsibly communicating sustainable gains to consumers.

See the agenda and register at www.sustainableplasticspackaging.com.

nthn0011 said...

Jai - I think packaging would be the greatest area where pharma companies (including generics) could invest in to reduce environmental impact.

That being said, there are certain regulations which would need to be revised to bring this to fruition - for example, a 500pack of tablets (generics) would be in a plastic bottle with approximately 20-30% unused space (usually filled with a cotton - used primarily to prevent tablets from being jerked around during transportation which could lead to breakage, etc.).

Also, the bottles themselves can be redesigned to be more environmentally friendly.