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By Emmanuel Abate, Vice President Genomics & Cellular Research & Head of Sustainability, Cytiva

If this is to be the decade of change, the pharma industry will benefit by continuing to embrace sustainability. The recent healthcare thematic research by Global Data on Sustainability in Pharma (2021) focuses on pharma’s varying approaches to environment, social and governance (ESG). It confirms that the sustainability agenda will keep on setting the scene for the industry over the next 10 years.

Although pharma has had sustainability targets and initiatives in place, the change that’s necessary requires the industry to carry on its efforts. This means continued dedication, deep integration into the business and big-picture thinking.

As the report points out, pharma has been dependent on processes and techniques that were developed decades ago, often not with all three pillars of sustainability — environment, social and governance (ESG)- efficiency in mind. Pharma’s role is to provide access to life-saving medicines, one of the most important aspects of social sustainability. As long as pharma delivered on one aspect of sustainability, it had the license to lag a bit in another.

The 3-pillar thinking is becoming more holistic though, something that the report calls ‘sustainability consciousness’. This is a powerful force that will strengthen how the industry does business. This is seen in Cytiva’s customers taking the lead with updated strategies and innovative thinking. They’re adopting a complete approach to sustainability, where business objectives and sustainability aims are closely interconnected. They’re seeing an opportunity to outperform by combining all three ESG pillars of sustainability into a cohesive plan of action.

The Global Data research also highlights approaches from peers (good and less good) but let’s look what Cytiva has done on the ‘home front’.

In April 2020, Cytiva became a new company. In this new beginning, Cytiva charted a plan of action to embed sustainability throughout the business. It started with a process to define topics that mattered most to the company and its stakeholders to 2030, underlining that sustainability is all about equipping for the future. The company also mapped where it needed to integrate the agenda deeper into the company and analyzed its role in society from the outside-in to 2030.

What were the lessons learned?

The health of people and the health of the planet are deeply interconnected and the company cannot deliver access to healthcare for growing populations without also limiting its impacts on climate change and resource scarcity. Cytiva knows that by 2030, global energy demand will rise by about 50% and water need by 35%.  There will be 50% more plastic waste by 2030 compared to 2020. To navigate this future, the way forward is to adapt, innovate, and collaborate across the value chain.

The Global Data research rightly points to diminished trust in the industry. That’s why sustainability frameworks and metrics beyond financial profit — like ESG Ratings of Pharmaceutical Companies — can help point out the far-sighted and short-sighted performers. Checklists help, but taking the time for strategic thinking and putting rigorous processes in place is still key.

One of the drivers for change will be the shift to a stakeholder-driven approach. This equips companies to be responsive to public demand for more action. The report highlights ‘Generation Hashtag’ (or Gen Z), the 14-29 year-olds who hold companies accountable to the highest standards of all three sustainability pillars. One wants to also listen to them for the good of the planet and for the good of the business. It’s not only their future at play, they’ll also be one’s workforce and will gauge performance through a sustainability lens as investors.

And with this decade of change, ‘seizing sustainability’ is an opportunity for pharmas to continue to engage on all sustainability pillars by merging industry mission into a cohesive plan for a sustainable future.

To learn more about Cytiva’s focus on sustainability, visit