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Is Time Up for Pharma?



In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its latest report warning that the window in which to deliver the deep emissions cuts needed to prevent the worst of the climate crisis is closing rapidly. The report highlighted the urgency with which changes need to be made to secure the future of our planet, changing the rhetoric to the importance of achieving “at least net-zero” by 2050 if the Paris Agreement is to be achieved.

Indeed, ahead of its publication, COP26 President, Alok Sharma, commented that the report is, “the starkest warning yet that human behaviour is alarmingly accelerating global warming”. He added: “We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, ten years – this is the moment. I don’t think we’re out of time, but I think we’re getting dangerously close to when we might be.”

This is undeniably a stark wake-up call for the world, and a pivotal time for businesses in all industries to make real changes to their operations.

When it comes to carbon footprint, it’s fair to say that the global pharmaceutical industry doesn’t have the best reputation. In a study published by McMaster University in 2019, it was found that the global pharma sector is a major contributor to global warming, generating around 48.6 tonnes of CO2 per million dollars of revenue generated, in 2015 (1). Putting this into context, this figure is about 55% greater than that of the automotive sector (responsible for 31.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per million dollars of revenue), an industry 28% larger than global pharma and widely regarded as a major polluter.

Separate findings released by the British Medical Association (BMA) in October 2020 revealed that pharmaceuticals are the second highest contributing factor towards the NHS’ carbon footprint, and the largest contributor in general practice (2). These findings have since led to calls from the BMA for pharma to develop a methodology to assess the total environmental impact of all medications and for them to clearly display their carbon footprint on their packaging.

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CEO of low carbon packaging company TrakRap, Martin Leeming is a retail professional who joined the business after working as Director in Trading, Supply Chain, and Change at Asda for 15 years. At TrakRap, Martin’s engineering background and retail experience have enabled the company to create a new type of Industry 4.0-ready secondary packaging system that uses less packaging, less energy, and generates less CO2 than traditional cardboard and shrink-wrapping systems.

martin.leeming@trakrap.com

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