The issues surrounding sustainability and its related topics, such as the development of government policy on carbon and the cost and complexity of achieving ‘zero or low’ carbon developments, continue to present challenges to businesses in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields. In order to balance the various drivers involved in this subject, you need a strong understanding of the issues, their impacts and their costs, says Arup’s Duncan White.

In recent years, many businesses have developed from being simply organisations that are compliant with environmental legislation to having now become proactive promoters of sustainability in their company outlook. In the facilities field, this change often includes the identification of benchmarks for the measurement of performance in such areas as energy, water and waste efficiency, and the associated reductions in carbon production.

The drivers for this change have typically been to achieve the goal of operating cost efficiencies and/or the desire to lead or to match competition in the marketplace in order to attract and retain the best talent in staff. An additional impetus has been to promote an external image that meets the increasing knowledge about sustainability, among customers.

The introduction of carbon-based legislation

Government policy with regard to carbon, as guided by the global climate change debate, is now starting to be implemented across the world. The new Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme was introduced in the UK this year and it provides a regulated basis for the financial consideration of carbon production by an organisation.

In other countries, carbon legislation is at various stages of implementation, and in some cases has been rejected by government bodies. Systems including ‘cap and trade’ or, less frequently, carbon taxation are methods under consideration.

Geographic variation can also be significant, with some countries more focused on the growth and prosperity of their people while others are taking leading measures to reduce carbon production.

Solutions for carbon reduction

For those who decide to implement low and zero carbon approaches, the subject is more complex than it may seem on initial consideration. This issue arises from the varied measurement boundaries for assessment. Firstly, the source for the measurement of carbon has not yet been consistently defined. Carbon sources for pharmaceutical and biotech companies can include the on-site generated (for example, generators, boilers, CHP plants), the off-site generated (utility power supplies), the sources of carbon in transportation and in the wider supply chain.

Secondly, international organisations (such as the UN), domestic government bodies plus leading NGOs in this field use different terminology for the definition of what constitutes low and zero carbon, which can cause further confusion.

Finally, the cost of low or zero carbon technologies can vary widely from location to location – these differences making a consistent global policy tough to implement. For example, in some locations financial incentives are offered for the production of green power or for the installation of energyefficient systems; in others, excellent wind or geothermal sources allow for relatively inexpensive low or zero carbon solutions. In still others, low carbon power generated from renewable sources is standard across the grid. Clearly, an understanding of all these issues is necessary if a business is to adopt an effective approach to carbon efficiency.

To sum up…

Arup, with global understanding, advises organisations to evaluate, from legislative, sustainability benefit and cost perspectives, the potential impact of the different approaches to carbon reduction. Technical and economic models are then developed, which fit with the short- and longer-term requirements and goals of the business. Furthermore, these considerations may also encompass issues in the wider supply chain and the longer-term risks associated with potential climate change and water supply.

Carbon legislation is tremendously varied, with different approaches and adoption levels globally. However, it appears to be a growing factor in the future business economics of global pharmaceutical and biotech corporations.