For the world's top-selling pharmaceutical company, sustainability can be a challenging target to meet. But for anyone who has ever wondered about Pfizer and the environment, the company is highlighting its considerable progress on four environmental goals: cutting emissions, reducing its carbon footprint, reducing its ozone depletion potential and obtaining more of its electricity from clean energy sources.
Pfizer's commitment to environmental sustainability pledges not only to protect the environment and the safety of its workers, but also to make a positive difference in communities around the world. This focus has taken the company on a journey that began with assessing its own impact on the planet, and continues with efforts to mitigate climate change, lead product stewardship efforts and promote access to clean water.
Human health is Pfizer's business, so naturally the company is concerned about the harmful impact of climate change around the globe.
The company exceeded its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent between 2000 and 2007 by an additional 8 percent through the use of renewable energy, equipment retrofits and combined heat and power systems. Pfizer also revealed in its 2009 corporate responsibility report that its largest manufacturing facility is its most energy-efficient, cutting energy bills by 10 percent in spite of rising energy costs.
Pfizer's progress on two other goals is even more impressive: volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to water and air were reduced by 43 percent between 2002 and 2006, meeting Pfizer’s target of a 40 percent reduction two years early, and an additional 35 percent was eliminated between 2007 and 2008. Emissions from ozone-depleting compounds were wiped out completely by 2008.
The company fell short of its 35 percent target for electricity from clean energy sources by 2010, but it did reach 21 percent and continues to aggressively develop and implement clean energy technology whenever possible.
Considering the Product Life-Cycle
Product stewardship is one of the most important facets of Pfizer's environmental initiative.
Considering the potentially damaging effects that pharmaceuticals and their byproducts can have on the environment, Pfizer pays close attention to the life cycle of its products. Pharmaceuticals in the environment – known as PIE – is a complex issue, and the company has three strategies for dealing with it.
Understanding is the first step. Pfizer collaborates with the scientific community, policy makers, regulatory agencies, patient groups and non-governmental organizations to constantly build and update the body of knowledge related to PIE.
In addition, the company is studying ways to prevent pharmaceuticals from polluting the environment. Partnering with other pharmaceutical companies and government agencies, Pfizer is exploring new methods of disposing unused medications and participating in take-back programs.
Finally, Pfizer is working to manage and minimize the environmental impact of active pharmaceutical ingredients contained in wastewater from its manufacturing operations.
Sustainable Water Management
Use of water in Pfizer's operations is already relatively low compared to many other industries, but the company has made responsible water management one of its top priorities. Aware of the growing threat from decreasing availability of clean potable water, Pfizer requires its facilities to account for all water use, conserve as much as possible and work with their respective communities during drought conditions.
Among the water conservation projects already in place at many Pfizer facilities are programs that identify and repair leaks, reuse treated wastewater in cooling towers and use recirculating water for the scrubbers the company uses for air pollution control.
A great example is Pfizer's La Jolla, Calif. facility – located in a very arid region plagued by ongoing droughts that have posed a big challenge for local businesses and residents. When a Level 2 Drought Alert was declared by the City of San Diego in June 2009, Pfizer complied with strict conservation practices by switching to 100 percent recycled water use for all irrigation and installing low-flow water fixtures in several areas, cutting campus reliance on potable water by 25 percent.
Pfizer provides details on its environmental sustainability commitment and all of its efforts to reach these goals on its website. Further information can be found in the 2009 Corporate Responsibility Report.