Whatís Your True Green?
If it canít be measured, it canít be green; leading manufacturers are turning to advanced metrics to show just how sustainable their products, processes, and plants really are.
By Paul Thomas, Senior Editor
The sustainability metrics used in pharma today show three shortcomings, the Ghent researchers have noted (in the dissertation work of Ghent’s Geert Van Der Vorst): they often don’t take energy resource consumption into account in gauging the efficiency of drug processes; they tend to divide mass and energy inputs (i.e., kg and kJ); and study boundaries are often too narrow, ignoring “overall resource intake upstream of the production facility.”
The Ghent team leverages the concept of exergy—that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but its quality can decline as it is used and transformed. “Exergy analysis of production processes indicates how efficient resources are employed towards products and not towards waste and lost work,” they say.
“The downside of using the energy lens is you don’t take into account the toxicity of the materials and the amount of waste generated,” says Yee, “but it does give you insight on the energy consumed and the impact on the natural environment from that standpoint.”Metrics at the Bench
Another intriguing tool is iSustain
, which originated as an internal research tool for bench scientists at Sytech Corp., and was developed in collaboration with John Warner—of the Warner-Babcock Institute, and one of the creators of the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry. Sytech was using Warner’s algorithms already, and Warner encouraged that it be made available to industry at large. To that end, the tool was officially launched early in 2010, hosted by Sopheon Co.
Users can sample the tool for free on iSustain.com, or purchase individual (for $199 per year) or enterprise-level seats to use the tool. Many companies have one or two of their top chemists kicking the tires, says Amy Cannon, executive director of Beyond Benign, a nonprofit venture that helps to maintain the iSustain database.
Most bench chemists have the data they need already at hand in their lab notebook to use iSustain, says Cannon, regarding Bill of Materials and process step data, as well as other material on, for example, toxicity and biodegradability. (It can also handle flow chemistry, though Cannon says that a future goal is to make iSustain better tailored for continuous processes as well.)
Output includes 12 separate scores on a scale of 0 to 100 (for each of the green chemistry principles), that is presented as a spider graph that builds as data is entered. Drug development teams can then assess the 12 areas separately according to their priorities. A fermentation process for lactic acid, Cannon notes, fares better than a chemical route in all 12 categories but energy efficiency.
“Most sustainability metrics tools are not geared towards practicing chemists,” Cannon notes. Rather, they’re geared towards EH&S and other broader corporate departments. “This is really the first tool to use in the beginning design stage, in the first box of the product lifecycle. It’s generally been a fuzzy box for a lot of companies that are trying to do lifecycle assessments,” and ideally it would be tightly integrated into a manufacturer’s LCA program. By using iSustain in that fuzzy first box, she says, sustainability initiatives become much easier later in product development.On the Facilities Front
Drug manufacturers first began turning green by focusing on facilities—how could pollution and energy usage be reduced? There has been plenty of low-hanging fruit, starting with HVAC, and manufacturers have looked to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program (particularly for new construction) and more recently to EPA’s Energy Star program (for existing facilities) for guidance.
Like many life sciences companies, BD is in the process of formalizing and scaling up its global sustainability program and defining the metrics to support that program in the areas of product stewardship and sustainable operations. “We’ve come light years from where were five years ago,” says Paul Malinowski who, as BD’s director of Project Management & Corporate Engineering, oversees the capital infrastructure of some 60 facilities worldwide. “We got very serious about it two years ago and formally launched the Office of Global Sustainability. An important focus of that office has been on standardizing an agreed-upon set of metrics and setting targets for those metrics. While BD made a lot of progress when we announced our 2015 Sustainability Targets, it’s an ongoing, challenging process.”
BD’s strategy focuses on sustainable operations and product stewardship so that the company can decrease the environmental footprint of its operations worldwide. To ensure this progress, BD set energy, water and waste reduction targets to be reached by 2015. These targets measure environmental performance and show external stakeholders a commitment to decreasing the company’s global environmental footprint.
In the area of product stewardship, BD is addressing materials of concern in its products and incorporating environmental considerations into product and packaging design. Part of this culture shift includes encouraging employees to explore innovative solutions for managing products after they are used.
Target areas for BD’s manufacturing and administrative operations include: reducing energy consumption, increasing reliance on renewable energy, cutting water usage, and reducing hazardous waste and waste going offsite for disposal. The general framework for sustainability improvements to its facilities has come from LEED. BD aims to have all its new and existing facilities LEED certified, but what matters most, Malinowski says, is going through the process. “Although it’s not a requirement for all buildings to be certified, it’s an aspiration,” he says. “What we’re really more interested in doing is having the project teams go through the rigorous thought process that the LEED program lays out.” The certification itself, he says, “is like the ribbon at the end of the race.”