A world of difference

Published: 11-Mar-2010

Most companies now boast a sustainability strategy. Hilary Ayshford summarises some of the latest thinking in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector

Most companies now boast a sustainability strategy, but methods and goals vary widely. Hilary Ayshford summarises some of the latest thinking in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector

Sustainability is about more than reducing the amount of waste produced, making more cost-effective use of raw materials or cutting back on energy consumption. "The definition of sustainability is meeting our needs today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs tomorrow," Bob Peoples, director at ACS Green Chemistry Institute, told attendees at a breakfast briefing at InformExUSA in San Francisco last month.

He warned that the models that we practise today are simply not sustainable. China has now overtaken the US as the main emitter of CO2, he said. Since August 2007, one new coal-fired power station has been brought on stream every week in China, and since the beginning of 2010 the number of new cars on the road in China has risen to 53,500 every single day.

"As the world shrinks in terms of our ability to share information and see what life is like in developed countries, people have a desire and a human right to improve the quality of their lives and we have a duty to help them," he stressed.

Green chemistry, as defined by the US's Green Chemistry Research & Development Act of 2005, means using "chemistry and chemical engineering to design chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances while producing high quality products through safe and efficient manufacturing processes".

At the show five companies were recognised for their commitment to improving sustainability in the inaugural "Profiles in Sustainability" awards. Sixteen companies submitted projects for consideration by the judging panel, which comprised representatives from the American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute, SOCMA and the trade media. The entries were judged on scope and extent, benefit to the environment and economic feasibility, but one of the most important factors in their success, according to the judges, was that all were currently viable - not just good ideas in theory.

"The purpose of these awards is to encourage sustainability among all companies as it is critical to industry," said Informex/UBM Brand Director Jennifer Jessup. "The awards were born from a need to recognise that sustainable chemistry is not just a passing fad or a niche branch for the chemical industry."

award winning initiatives

IoLiTec uses a novel "rental" concept to supply ionic liquids, which can be alternative green solvents in catalysis. The rental scheme encourages customers to use ionic liquids and recycle them afterwards as only the liquid that is lost after use and recycling is paid for in full.

The Wercs specialises in chemical compliance assessment and hazard communication software and services. Five years ago it developed a systematic program, WERCSmart, to provide ingredient disclosure on products that contain chemicals for WalMart. Through a web-based portal, all its suppliers must input standard data for their products. This led to GreenWERCS, a tool that analyses individual product compositions and plots their potential impact on human health and the environment.

Segetis was recognised for its levulinic ketal monomers, which are built from levulinic acid, which in turn is derived from cellulosic biomass and bio-based hydroxyl compounds, and offer a potential transformational change to industries that, historically, have derived products from petrochemicals.

DSM was recognised for its continuous drive to embed sustainability metrics into process design and manufacturing. For example, it is trying to bring down manufacturing costs using process intensification, which gives more effective scale-up of pharmaceutical chemicals, speeds up development and drives down material costs. An important part of this is its green chemistry toolbox, which includes scouting with enzymes, and microreactor technologies for commercial scale production.

Since 2003, Lonza has been running a technology initiative to introduce sustainable practices, using continuous processing and microreactor technology. Its platform supports rapid process development and production under continuous flow. It is robust and scalable - projects have been run at multi-ton scale in a cGMP environment. The impact includes reduced waste and solvent use, reduced energy consumption and increased productivity.

For both Lonza and DSM microreactor technology features strongly as a means of implementing green chemistry. "This represents our commitment to understanding our customers" needs and the need for viable manufacturing solutions in the future," said Bob Hartmayer, president and ceo of DSM Pharmaceutical Products.

For six years DSM has ranked at the top of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index due to its continuous drive to embed sustainability metrics into process design and manufacturing. "DSM is proud of its broad technological toolbox, which contributes to our leadership position in sustainable manufacturing," added Luca Mantovani, president and business unit director of DSM Pharma Chemicals. "Also, optimising first generation processes by driving down the cost curve is crucial for the commercial success of pharmaceutical compounds."

Lonza recently signed a worldwide manufacturing and distribution licence agreement with Bayer Technology Services company Ehrfeld Mikrotechnik BTS (EMB), together with a co-operation and development agreement on Lonza's microreactor technology.

Under the terms of the agreements, EMB will acquire a licence from Lonza on two key products: the Lonza Development Microreactor (process development) and the Lonza Advanced Production Micro-reactor (manufacturing), making EMB exclusive worldwide manufacturer, vendor and distributor. Lonza and EMB also agreed to develop the product further via the co-operation and development agreement. "Both agreements will broaden the base of users to utilise freely this cutting-edge reactor technology to develop the greener and sustainable processes of tomorrow," said Dominique Roberge, head of microreactor technology business development.

"Green chemistry goes back to first design principles and preventing the creation of hazardous materials," said Peoples. "Nor does green chemistry have to cost more - in many cases it provides a good return on investment and a competitive advantage in the marketplace."

This is borne out by an international study, which found that global chemical companies could release at least b1bn in cash flow if they increased their sustainability performance.

The study, published by a leading European research team including academics from Queen's University Management School in Belfast, assessed the sustainability performance of nine global chemical companies in monetary terms. Entitled Sustainable Value Creation by Chemical Companies, it identified significant differences.

Among the resources assessed in the study were total assets, water use, chemical oxygen demand of waste water, hazardous waste creation, emissions of greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds, as well as acidification potential. Social indicators such as number of employees and accidents were also included in the assessment.

The study calculated each company's sustainable value - the first monetary assessment of corporate sustainability performance for chemical companies that takes into account financial, environmental and social resources.

The sustainable value approach was developed by Professor Frank Figge of Queen's University Management School Belfast and Dr Tobias Hahn of Euromed Management School Marseille, who authored this study with researchers from the Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment in Berlin.

"Sustainable value is created when a company uses its resources more efficiently than the market average," Professor Figge explained. "Companies have highly developed tools to measure their use of economic capital. The sustainable value approach now allows them to measure the use of their environmental and social resources in economic terms.

"In comparison with other studies looking at the sustainability performance of this sector, our study looks at the "real" performance, which considers environmental and social impacts," he added. "Previous studies have often looked at qualitative indicators and have used non-transparent weighting of the different criteria. Our study is based on economic theory and provides companies with an unprejudiced assessment of their performance."

The leading companies, Air Liquide and BASF, used their resources up to five times more efficiently than their competitors, the study found. In 2007, this meant that both companies created a sustainable value of around b1bn, creating b1bn more cash flow than their competitors, on average, with the same amount of resource. Correcting the results for company size, Bayer, which uses resources 1.2 times more efficiently than its competitors on average, catches up with BASF.

At the end of last year Bayer embarked on an extensive programme to increase its commitment to sustainability. It launched eight so-called lighthouse projects focusing on healthcare, nutrition and climate protection aimed at integrating the company's products and its employees" know-how into international projects to promote further sustainable development across the globe. "We are making specific contributions to balance commercial success with the protection of the environment and the needs of society," said chairman of the Bayer Board of Management Werner Wenning.

Experts predict that the world population will total more than 9 billion people by about 2050, compared with 6.8 billion today. This corresponds to an average population growth of 80 million people each year - or about 200,000 per day.

"We want to provide answers to urgent questions concerning innovative medicines for sustainable healthcare, and high-quality food for the rapidly growing world population," said Wenning. "At the same time, these challenges provide us with business opportunities."

Wenning highlighted the relevance of innovation and investment in the future. "For us, innovations are the driver of sustainability. And we will only be able to overcome the major challenges of our time with innovative products, processes and technologies."

For example, through a new technology for chlorine production, it will be possible to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by a further 250,000 tonnes by 2020. The marketing of this technology will generate additional potential for cutting greenhouse gas emissions overall by 5m tonnes per year.

The Group is to increase energy efficiency in production by 10% by 2013 compared with 2008, corresponding to specific reductions in greenhouse gases of 350,000 tonnes annually.

This planet is very small and very fragile and its resources are very limited, Peoples concluded. "Our aim is catalyse and enable the implementation of green chemistry principles throughout the whole chemistry enterprise. It is a challenge that will take many generations to implement. Today we are the pioneers and blazing the trails for green chemistry and engineering that will make the world a better place for all of us tomorrow.'

12 principles of green chemistry - US Environment Protection Agency

    1 Prevent waste, leave no waste to treat or clean up. 2 Design safer (non-toxic) chemicals and products. 3 Design less hazardous chemical syntheses. 4 Use renewable feedstock. 5 Use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents. 6 Avoid chemical derivatives; avoid using blocking or protecting groups or any temporary modifications. 7 Design syntheses so that the final product contains maximum proportion of the starting materials. 8 Use safer solvents and reaction conditions. 9 Increase energy efficiency: run chemical reactions at ambient temperature and pressure. 10 Design chemicals and products to degrade after use. 11 Include in-process real-time monitoring and control during syntheses to minimise or eliminate the formation of byproducts. 12 Minimise the potential for accidents.

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