The reality of our industry is that while many products provide life-saving solutions for patients, it also has an impact on the environment. Whether it is medical-waste plastic ending up in landfills, the water required for manufacturing, or the greenhouse gases emitted for transport, the entire ecosystem—from production to disposal—has opportunity for more purposeful, environmentally conscious planning.

Consider, for example, recycling programs for used plastic devices. At Novo Nordisk, we have found a solution through an innovative TakeBack program that allows patients to return insulin devices. We have also changed much of our transportation packaging to an eco-friendly, insulated container called Biocooler®, which will compost in almost all environments. This also helps reduce the need for refrigeration on long-haul transports.

But it’s not just about what the pharmaceutical companies ourselves do, we must also make purposeful decisions about our vendors and suppliers. Setting requirements for ourselves will certainly ensure progress, but choosing to partner with companies that prioritize sustainability will enhance and accelerate our impact.

There also exists an opportunity for tapping into research and development to create innovations where we integrate sustainability in all we do to solve for environmental challenges, while also providing a better patient experience. While most leaders have prioritized a culture of innovation with patient centricity, it is imperative that sustainability be a driving force in the company’s culture. We must think about innovating for patients—and the environment—in every step we take.

Let’s take another look at insulin. It is not just about identifying ways to reuse and recycle the plastic pens once used, but about reducing what patients need to use in the first place. At Novo Nordisk, our product pipeline includes a long-lasting basal insulin analogue intended for once-weekly dosing, potentially reducing the overall number of plastic pens required. Innovations can also help make the insulin itself more resistant to temperature changes so refrigeration during transportation is not required.

At Novo Nordisk, we take our responsibility to people and the planet seriously, and our goal is to reach net zero CO2 by 2045 through our Circular for Zero Strategy. But we know this work is too important for us to do alone. No single program will be the answer. Together with partners at public agencies and private organizations, we will have a significant impact over time.

We need to share knowledge and work together to set up a system that allows for scale and the development of infrastructure for global initiatives. And our work should be documented and tracked to help us hold one another accountable and collaborate on new opportunities. Achieving these measures will not just help our environment; we will be working toward our shared, most important goal—saving lives.


(Originally posted by Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-10-01-2022, Volume 42, Issue 10)