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Contract development and manufacturing organization Samsung Biologics is taking climate change seriously. In a recent webinar, James Choi, executive vice president, chief marketing officer, and head of global public affairs at Samsung Biologics, explained the environmental impact of the healthcare industry and outlined the CDMO’s plans to work toward net-zero emissions across the biopharmaceutical supply chain.
“The global healthcare sector generates approximately 4% to 5% of total global emissions. That’s roughly two-and-a-half gigatons of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of the fifth-largest emitting country in the world,” said Choi. “Looking at the emission sources within the health care sector, about half are driven by supply chains. The remaining carbon footprint is linked to [research and development], patient care settings, and patients.”
The goal of Choi’s talk was to highlight the importance of partnering with a sustainable CDMO to reduce these supply chain emissions. He noted several ways in which Samsung Biologics is pursuing a more sustainable approach to manufacturing and developing biologic medicines.
“It’s essential for manufacturers to work alongside their suppliers to decarbonize supply chains for health care systems to reach net zero,” said Choi.
What Causes Supply Chain Carbon Emissions?
Choi highlighted four challenges facing emissions reduction in the industry before emphasizing the need for pharmaceutical companies to partner with sustainable CDMOs to address these challenges. First, tracking emissions data remains a challenge for the pharma industry, as there’s no common database to assess data on total emissions through the supply chain life cycle.
“As a result, downstream pharma companies have no starting point for their life cycle assessments, which makes benchmarking and measurement of emissions reductions very challenging,” said Choi.
Second, Choi noted that most of the high-volume production of pharmaceuticals occurs in countries “where power grids are currently fossil-heavy and access to green energy sources is limited.”
Third, the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated. Changes to manufacturing methods or materials with the goal of reducing emissions introduce a regulatory approval process that Choi notes has “multi-market complexity” across areas such as raw materials, processes, transportation, and packaging. He pointed out that this process can be “time-consuming and uncertain.”
Finally, Choi explained that “many decarbonization levers and technologies are still expensive or have limited availability in some geographies.”
He stated that carbon capture technologies could remain expensive for the next decade, but he was also optimistic about the rate of technological improvement and increased affordability for renewable energy sources.
“Implementing manufacturing efficiency measures and switching to renewable power can, however, be done at low incremental costs and many geographies and even save cost over time. The overall incremental cost of decarbonizing supply chains is projected to be about 40 to 80 euros [approximately $43-$87] per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent abated by 2030,” said Choi. “Technology availability and costs continue to evolve much faster than predicted and specifically renewable technologies have persistently matured faster, and prices have fallen further than predicted.”
Partnering With a Sustainable CDMO
Choi went on to outline Samsung Biologics’ sustainability strategy in detail.
“We recognize our ability as a CDMO to help drive climate change response and we’ve identified the opportunities toward achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across direct operations and the supply chain aligned with our clients’ net-zero targets,” he said.
Samsung Biologics is engaging in several “core activities” to reduce emissions. These include process energy optimization, transitioning to renewable energy with investments in solar panels and other technologies, converting to zero-emission vehicles, and minimizing the use of disposables in the manufacturing process through waste management and recycling.
The CDMO’s environmental, social, and governance policy also outlines a commitment to the RE100 initiative to run on 100% renewable energy, and Samsung Biologics was recognized by the Carbon Disclosure Project for its rigorous emissions reporting standards and progress in reducing emissions in 2022.
Samsung Biologics is also the lone CDMO representative in the Sustainable Markets Initiative. SMI was founded by King Charles III in January 2020 at Davos with a mission to build a coordinated global effort to use the private sector to accelerate progress on sustainability goals. Samsung Biologics is part of SMI’s Health Systems Task Force, a collaboration of public and private sector leaders, including the CEOs of seven global pharmaceutical companies, established academics, and leaders from UNICEF and the World Health Organization. It’s tasked with creating more sustainable health care supply chains and patient care.
“While all stakeholders can support decarbonization, CDMOs can uniquely add value to enable our clients’ sustainability strategy,” said Choi. He concluded that pharmaceutical companies should “partner with a CDMO that commits to initiatives and global partnership to drive impact, a CDMO that is already set near net-zero targets while tracking and disclosing product level emissions, and a CDMO that engages in strong supply relationships to align with our clients and their net-zero efforts.”