Despite the heightened urgency of curbing carbon emissions around the world, the healthcare sector in general, and the pharmaceutical sector in particular have received very little attention from the sustainability community in terms of their contribution to the global carbon footprint. In this paper, we conduct an analysis of the overall contributions and the historical emissions trends of the pharmaceutical sector, as well as an industry-specific comparative analysis of the major pharmaceutical companies in the world. Surprisingly, our analysis reveals that the pharmaceutical industry is significantly more emission-intensive than the automotive industry. We also use a previously published mathematical framework linking national target emissions to the target emission intensity of the pharmaceutical sector to derive the emission intensity of the pharmaceutical sector required for the US to meet its reductions commitments per the now defunct Obama-administration commitments at the 2015 Paris Agreement. We identify the excess emitters among the top-15 Pharmaceutical companies, from those that are leading the pack with their emissions improvement efforts. The results are quite instructive as we find a far greater variability amongst the Top-15 pharmaceuticals than the Top-10 automotive companies, suggesting a very disparate set of environmental practices within the industry. The paper should elicit further in-depth studies of the environmental performance of the pharmaceutical sector and help inform policy makers, business leaders and academicians on how to help curb this unwarranted level of emissions in this important and growing industry sector.
Journal of Cleaner Production – Elsevier
Published: Mar 20, 2019
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