Insider interview: Roche discusses the importance of sustainability in pharma manufacturing

pharmafile | January 6, 2017 | News story | Manufacturing and Production, Medical Communications Roche 

Peter Schurrenberger, Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer at Roche, discusses their recent recognition as a leader for corporate action on climate change by the CDP.

Roche has recently been recognised as a leader for corporate action on climate change for the second consecutive year, does this reflect the importance that Roche places upon tackling climate change?

First of all, we are thankful for this recognition and we see it as an incentive to continue our efforts and improve wherever we can. We are committed to bringing more innovative medicines to patients around the world and to reducing our environmental impact as we do so.

We have adopted an integrated management approach that aligns our environmental strategy, objectives and targets with our overall business strategy. Our long-term goal is to reduce total environmental impacts per employee by 10% by 2019.

For us, environmental sustainability means protecting the future by making the right choices today in an environment where water is increasingly scarce, natural resources are constrained and biodiversity is declining. In short, we are helping protect those resources by improving environmental efficiency in our own operations.

And as part of our overall sustainability efforts, we are looking beyond Roche and are also involving our suppliers and other partners to continuously improve the environmental performance of our products along the value chain. Therefore, we will focus on environmental sustainability from acquiring raw materials through product use and disposal.

What methods has Roche taken to become more environmentally friendly? How are these important?

Environmental protection is integrated into the business strategy and when making important decisions, sustainability issues, such as climate changes, are taken into account. There are several methods we have taken to become more environmentally friendly:

First, we have adopted a decentralised approach, making our Roche sites accountable for environmental matters while coordinated by a central Safety, Security, Health and Environmental protection (SHE) function.

Also, we employ a Group-wide environmental protection management system including our collaborations along the value chain to prevent, avoid and lessen environmental impacts. Furthermore, we closely follow international developments in various areas of environmental protection, allowing us to implement the necessary measures to comply with upcoming laws and regulations wherever we operate. 

We have established company-wide environmental guidelines, policies and directives. For example, in 2006, Roche implemented a Directive on Energy Conservation, which is designed to ensure that all decision-making at Roche is congruent to our position on energy and global warming and supports efficient, appropriate and cost-effective energy use. The Directive also stipulates energy efficiency standards and prescribes minimum energy performance levels. Binding for all parts of the organization, the Directive requires that all at Roche make energy conservation part of our daily business.

Lastly, auditing Roche sites worldwide helps us to monitor our current state as well as progress.

What is the plan going forward to ensure that Roche maintains this record of being recognised for its work on climate change? 

We believe, continuing what we have been doing for the last 20 plus years will help us stay on top of developments. Therefore, we need to make sure we stay informed about modern technologies, continue to build energy efficient buildings, enforce our environmental guidelines, policies and directives as well as anchor environmental goals in our business strategy. 

For Roche, it is not about winning awards, it is about doing what is right for the environment, the societies that live within this environment as well as sustainability as a whole. This recognition tells us that we are on the right path and that hopefully our measures to reducing the company’s footprint will have a positive impact.

Roche has stated that it aims for 20% of its total energy usage to be derived from sustainable sources by 2020. Is this target achievable and how far have you progressed towards it?

While it is a challenging goal, we believe it is also a realistic goal. Looking at today, we already derive 15% of our total energy from sustainable sources and many of our sites receive electricity from sustainable sources such as photovoltaic, wind and hydropower.

Your website makes note of education programmes for employees in the area of environmentally friendly production; do you think this is key to a successful green production strategy? Could you explain how you educate your staff? 

We believe that all employees can contribute to this success as well as long term improvement around becoming more environmentally friendly. Therefore, it is not only in the production area where we are trying to move the needle, we are enhancing our efforts throughout all steps of the value chain.

At the same time, we have implemented special education programmes within our production area as this is an area where we can have the biggest lever. We are encouraging our employees to support our overall vision and plans. To enhance greater awareness on how each employee can support our mission, we offer energy fairs, webinars, internal trainings as well as other communication channels.

Is there anything else you think is essential to building an efficient and successful environmentally-friendly production strategy? 

As mentioned earlier, we are not only enhancing our efforts in the production area but across the full value chain of our business. Generally, we think that internal company awareness is important to support the overall approach. If each employee understands the company’s goals and why they have been set, they will be more willing to contribute and achieve these goals.

Are companies and organisations doing enough to foster cooperation to build a more sustainable production standard across the industry?

Our work is representative of what every company that has sustainability at its core should be doing. Our Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) experts participate in meetings and discussions with representatives from other companies and it is clear that there is a joint drive towards greater protection of the environment. At the same time, each company needs to do this within its own field and within its own means. This, understandably, can vary enormously between companies as well as industries.

In light of this, how is the pharmaceutical industry progressing towards this goal?

It is difficult to speak for the whole industry. As a pharma company, we feel that it is our responsibility to ensure that we protect the environment in which we operate. At Roche, we believe that society, environment and business are intricately linked and that our very future depends on ensuring that there is a steady balance between those three pillars.

In many other industries environmentally-friendly production is a very big issue. How does the pharma industry compare to other major industries? If it is lagging behind, why do you think this is?

Generally, we can say that the pharmaceutical industry as a whole is not a major contributor to climate change. The disease areas which we serve are not or are only marginally dependent on the climate or climate change. However, our contribution to mitigating climate change influences the way we conduct our business. For example, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a pharmaceutical business is largely about reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency. Saving energy reduces GHG emissions. 

The companies and partners we interact with all have plans to address the environmental impact of their operations. We wouldn’t be doing business with any partners who cannot demonstrate that they have a responsible approach to how they operate. Our SHE and procurement representatives are tasked with checking that the necessary policies and processes are in place to ensure that our partners are responsible operators.

What more needs to be done? Are Roche or other companies moving in this direction? 

There is always more to be done, and this is why we have established long term sustainability goals that we wish to achieve by 2019, 2020 and 2025.

We cannot predict the future, but we will re-evaluate these goals and adjust them going forward, continually seeking to improve on what we have achieved. We acknowledge that there is a joint responsibility between companies and governments and we certainly hope that our actions encourage other companies to do the same. We hope that being recognised by the CDP will encourage other companies to seek that same recognition and emulate what Roche and many other companies are already doing.

This piece was originally featured in the Autumn 2016 edition of Pharmafile. To read more market and industry insight like this, please visit the link below.

Related Content

EC approves Roche’s Evrysdi for babies under two months with SMA

Roche has announced that the European Commission (EC) has approved the extension of Evrysdi’s marketing …

Alnylam and Roche partner for RNAi therapeutic for treatment of hypertension

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has announced that it has entered a strategic agreement with Roche for the …


Nordic Bioscience receives FDA Letter of Support for biomarker in aggressive tumour fibrosis

Danish biomarker company Nordic Bioscience has announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) …

Latest content