Sustainability panel at Pharmapack …collaboration and communication are key

27 February 2023

Springboard’s Kristien De Clercq hosted the sustainability panel at the recent Pharmapack conference in Paris. The panel, consisted of major players in the pharmaceutical industry assembled by Springboard featured key industry players from Novartis, Sanofi, Owen Mumford, TerraCycle and Nelipak.

The overriding consensus is that communication and collaboration between all parties in the supply chain are vital if we are going to improve our environmental sustainability within the health sector as a whole.

The key topics of discussions were:

We need to do more

The panellists recognised that the industry contributes to greenhouse gasses and if the health care system was a country, then it would be the 5th biggest contributor to greenhouse gasses[1], a shocking statistic.

To do more as a sector, we need more consistency and clarity in government standardisation of reporting requirements. Without far more thorough standardisation of requirements we cannot compare sustainability statistics for different companies within the health sector, so it is hard to draw comparisons and conclusions about the success of companies’ sustainability campaigns.

The ISO standards for environmental management systems (in the ISO 14000 series)[2] give us some tools for standardisation across industry.

Environmental impact

There was much discussion on the huge impact that packaging has within the industry, and the fact that each company is dependant on different manufacturing methods, materials, and transportation.

Packaging is vital for the medical industry and the panel agreed that it is difficult to understand what can and cannot be recycled in the supply chain. Even companies in the supply chain are often unable to give clear reports on the sustainability of their processes and materials, therefore making it harder for comprehensive life cycle assessments to take place.


We need to look at the bigger picture for industry-wide change to be possible. One panellist introduced the concept of designing for ‘3P’s – profit, people and planet’. This has the same ingredients as Novo Nordisk’s “Triple Bottom Line” principle.[3]

Joint initiatives within the market on life cycle assessments (LCAs) will help and there are some pharmaceutical companies, for example Sanofi, who are already instigating these with their supply chain partners. There should also be increased standardisation of LCAs that will give us a better idea of current status and can enable comparisons between supply chain options and strategies.

From a device design perspective, we also need to have a holistic approach that includes the end user and the concept of circular economy. Examples of some initiatives include recycling points at pharmacies.

Education and behaviour of healthcare users is essential to make the changes in practice. Standardisation of the definitions of waste materials across countries would be a great step forward so that recycling is easier for the end user.

Looking to the future: normalise the discussion

The panel members agreed that the work that we are doing now will enable discussions about sustainability to become normal and mainstream. They are looking forward to that day.

They believe that collaboration within the pharmaceutical industry is key to improving discussions and informing regulatory change. Consistency and standardisation will help the industry move forward.

Currently measurement is done on an individual basis, to individual and isolated processes. If there is more standardisation within the governmental and regulatory requirements, then measurements will also become more consistent and improvements easier to track.


The discussions we had before, during and after the panel clearly show that there is a high importance on sustainability within the industry and with communication within the sector, yet we can do much more to move our sustainability goals. At Springboard, sustainability is a key consideration in our projects, and we enjoy doing our bit for our clients to move their sustainability targets forward.

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[1] The NHS produces 5.4% of the UK’s greenhouse gases. How can hospitals cut their emissions? | NHS | The Guardian