Designing Products for Environmental Sustainability

As a result of senior management support over the course of the past eight years, GSK has been able to systematically develop a suite of tools and methodologies to assist the business and R&D in moving towards more sustainable business practices. Given the nature of the Pharmaceutical Industry, where processes are locked in two to three years before a product reaches the market, the only hope of changing what is done is to design sustainability into new product processes within an R&D environment as early as is practical. This is a very difficult and challenging endeavor since principles of sustainability must compete with more traditional measures and demands placed on the pharmaceutical industry by the regulatory agencies governing new product approval. Given the very strict regulatory oversight encountered in the pharmaceutical industry and the pressure to provide clinical trial supplies for products that will never enter the market, there is a natural and understandable suspicion and aversion to anything that might be construed as either another restriction, or worse, as something that is nice to have, but not really necessary for the survival of the business.

Consequently, we have launched a comprehensive eco-design toolkit that is primarily focused on influencing new product and process development, but may also be of help for product transfer or redesign of processes. The toolkit should assist bench-level GSK scientists and engineers, together with their managers, to bring products to market faster. We believe this is true because the eco-design principles, practices, and guidance that have been provided to the scientists and engineers will help them to design out potential problems early in development. These tools should also help to bring products to market more cost-effectively because the eco-design principles and practices will enable GSK in the longer term to use less material and energy to make products, while ensuring that the material and energy used has fewer EHS impacts. R&D should be able to address potential environment, safety and health issues before a process is handed over to manufacturing where the cost to address EHS issues is considerably higher.

The toolkit is currently composed of five modules, which are discussed below. Each of these modules considers the EHS impacts of materials, processes, and services from the time raw materials are extracted through to the ultimate fate of products and wastes in the environment.

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