Big Steps, Shrinking Footprint at Novartis

Novartis has made responsible energy usage part of its modus operandi, says Environment and Energy Manager Markus Lehni.

By Paul Thomas, Senior Editor

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One of the things that Novartis does to encourage energy efficiency at its many sites is to hand out awards for projects that have helped to reduce its corporate carbon footprint. Recent award winners include:

Sandoz Kundl: The Sandoz Division in Kundl, Austria, was honored for its use of synthetic media to optimize processes for the production of penicillin and cephalosporin. The $3.3 million project showed a payback of about one year, while electricity savings and respective Scope 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were reduced by 26%. This amounted to 9% of absolute annual savings for the entire facility.

Novartis Pharma Wehr: The German facility used wood chips from local forests as its major fuel source, and in turn increased the use of renewable energy from biomass by 50% for the entire Novartis group. The change has reduced the site's annual Scope 1 GHG emissions by about two-thirds.

CibaVision Indonesia: The Consumer Health Division (CibaVision) in Batam, Indonesia, reduced energy use through projects that reduced the use of boilers, compressed air, chilling and lighting and improved production synchronization and employee habits. The savings amounted to 11 percent of purchased energy use for the facility.

Editor’s Note: For more on the awards, visit the Novartis Web site.

All of these projects have one thing in common, says Markus Lehni, PhD, Novartis Environment and Energy Manager. They came about because the company prioritizes responsibility and creativity towards energy usage. “We enjoy good support from corporate management,” says Lehni. “It’s exceptional. Early in my career, at other companies, I didn’t always experience this. Here I have found open doors, and I often get requests from corporate management for information and advice.”

Last year, Novartis prepared energy standards and energy management guidelines for the whole corporation — for everything from lighting systems to machinery. They’ve also stipulated that all new projects, whether manufacturing-related or not, must consider their energy usage and climate impact.

“A couple of years ago, we set targets for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction for all sites,” Lehni says. “The targets are designed starting at the corporate level and are tailored to individual sites. For example, in Singapore, there is a tropical climate and you need more energy for air conditioning.”

Would impact on the corporate carbon footprint ever actually influence site location? “We are not that far that this is potentially an argument for site location,” says Lehni, “but it is becoming a factor.” It matters, for example, that Brazil has an abundance of hydroelectric power or that California has good governmental support for solar energy.

The Wehr project is an example of how the energy program runs across the company but is flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities within each facility. “Wood is a renewable local source of energy from the nearby forest, and wood chips are by definition carbon neutral, so it makes sense,” he says. “We’re saving 1% of our total group emissions from just that one site.”

Novartis also has plans to use wind energy in the U.K. and in Puerto Rico and solar in other places. In its Basel headquarters, it uses Rhine River water for cooling.

In the spirit of energy consciousness, Lehni shares ideas that other drug manufacturing sites could adopt. The best potential for a short payback is making your HVAC system more efficient and more sophisticated, he says. “HVAC still has huge potential for efficiency improvements. In the past, energy was cheaper and people didn’t care as much.” Now, a site is missing an opportunity if it is not reevaluating its HVAC efficiency, he says.

Manufacturers should investigate the HVAC technology they have already to see if it can be used more efficiently, often by just changing setpoints. And energy consumption should always be a key part of selecting new equipment and projects. 

Corporate education and energy awareness are also imperative. Novartis has many ways to recognize employees and their projects that are making a difference, from awards to featuring projects on posters in hallways to promoting successes on the corporate Web site. “You make energy use an everyday topic where people can discuss it regularly,” Lehni says.

Novartis’ awards program is now in its fifth year and has recognized more than 50 projects. The company has developed a network of site and divisional energy managers across the globe, has open communication between them and holds regular three-day workshops in Asia, Europe, South and North America so that energy staff can meet and share best practices.

In other words, energy awareness has become part of the corporate fabric at Novartis, not something developed overnight. “It takes some time to create this and keep the pace,” Lehni says. “You always want to do more than before.”

Fortunately, other companies are getting the message as well. “The picture has become much more balanced lately,” says Lehni. “Big companies understand that energy responsibility is not just philanthropy. It’s part of business.”

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