With the planet in crisis, we all need to play our part in supporting and sustaining the environment, from individuals to companies. And this, of course, includes Lonza. Sustainability is at the core of our business ethos, and we are proud to have been recognized by Ethisphere as one of the world’s most ethical companies. As well as its environmental importance, sustainability is also becoming increasingly important for all businesses from a commercial perspective. It enhances employee retention and talent attraction, and increasingly influences new business acquisition.
Evolving as pioneers in sustainability
Both customers and investors are being heavily influenced in their decision-making by the environmental footprint impact of potential suppliers. Lonza’s track record in developing sustainable processes and operations aligns very well with this. Lonza has a large sustainability program, and in the Small Molecules division we have put in place a roadmap that outlines how we will continue to evolve as pioneers in sustainable practices. One way is by ensuring that organizational behaviors aligned with sustainability values are systemically incorporated into daily work. We will also recognize key figures within our company as sustainability role models, with successes promoted and rewarded.
We are proud to say we have been gold-rated for sustainability by our largest customer, its highest possible rating. But we can always do more. How can we optimize our chemical processes further, making them less demanding on the environment? Technology advances will be critical. Part of our strategy needs to involve optimizing the processes we already have. But this is not all we need to design new processes for the future that use greener chemistry.
Redesigning current process to be more sustainable
Taking this double approach is important, as many of our key production processes were designed years ago. Some of our customers’ products are registered globally, and it would be impractical from a regulatory standpoint to redesign the processes used to make them. Instead, we must look to optimize what we already have. A good example of this is a program in our manufacturing facility in Nansha, China, for treating wastewater. Aqueous wastes from API production tend to contain small amounts of active ingredient, and therefore cannot be treated safely in a standard wastewater plant. The current approach is commonly to incinerate them instead, but this uses a huge amount of energy.
We therefore launched a program to look at all the aqueous wastes we currently incinerate, and search for alternative technologies that could treat it safely but use a lot less energy. By combining different innovative approaches, we managed to reduce the amount of incinerated wastewater at Nansha by more than 4000-fold in 2021. Our teams around the world have also made progress in reusing solvents. Again, the standard practice in the pharmaceutical industry is to incinerate most organic solvents after use in production. We are now striving to reuse as much solvent as possible. State-of-the-art work-up technologies have already enabled us to save more than 10,000 tons of solvents from being incinerated every year. We want to increase this further.
Looking to the future
We are also looking at how we might design processes to make products that are still in the pipeline, so that when they are commercialized in the future, their environmental burden will be minimized. This is a big challenge for our R&D team, and they are exploring innovations in artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics to find better ways of doing things. For all life sciences companies, putting these kinds of initiatives in place is imperative for the long-term sustainability of the planet. We all need to do our bit to help the world to remain a good place for our children, their children, and their children’s children.
Want to discuss this further?
If you're interested in our sustainable practices or our small molecules offering, contact us to learn more.