Environmental sustainability in pharma – A view on Pharma’s progress towards positive impact


IQVIA, Zurich, Switzerland


The pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to environmental regulation, often controlling emissions of air and water pollutants in order to minimise damage to the local environment from toxic and pharmaceutically active chemicals. This article explores the steps the pharmaceutical industry is taking in reducing its carbon footprint in a wider push to counteract climate change, a phenomenon that affects population health and on a global scale. It is good that innovative solutions to greener medicines are emerging, but these must be balanced with a willingness to investment from payers and society as a whole. Furthermore, factors incentivising this change are analysed and key focus areas are proposed to make a significant progress towards meeting the Paris Agreement’s goals.

Over the past couple of decades, since the Kyoto protocol in 1997, broader movements towards reducing the effects of climate change have been introduced by nations aimed at all industries. The latest evolution of this movement is the Paris Agreement, ratified in 2015, that specifically aims to keep global warming to well below 2C and preferably to no more than 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels by 2050 (1). The EU is aiming to go a step further with its European Green deal, introduced in late 2019, where it has committed to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050 and has allocated over €1tn to its objectives. These initiatives aim to provide a cleaner environment, affordable renewable energy, resilient industry, longer lasting products and a better quality of life (2).


There is a strong argument that health systems as a whole should be frontrunners in limiting the impact of climate change, as it strikes at the heart of population health: a changing climate will drive poorer outcomes, increase mortality and health inequity. These can arise from multiple causes, among them severe weather, extreme heat, a changing ecology of disease vectors ...