The secret to achieving our new environmental targets? Our people

Teva has announced ambitious new environmental targets – including a long-term goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 33%. Richard Pickup and Ann Lee-Jeffs look behind that ambitious number to understand what it will take to achieve it.

Across industry, businesses have become acutely aware of the need – and duty – to improve their impact on the environment. They announce targets hit, emissions cut, efficiencies made, and long-term value created.

But, in reality, it’s not companies that do this. It’s people. People – with all their dedication, skills, and ingenuity – will avert the looming environmental crisis.

For example, take Teva’s facility in Malanpur, India, which produces active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). To operate, the plant must meet stringent environmental conditions to discharge specific pollutants from the site’s Effluent Treatment Plant.

To ensure this happened, the team created a whole new process to remove solvents from wastewater using existing facilities. But they didn’t stop at the point of meeting the regulations. They designed the process to reduce the number of chemicals needed to treat the wastewater and cut airborne emissions, amongst several other benefits.

The engineering team then stepped in, designing and installing equipment that recovers heat from the new process and feeds it into a downstream secondary process, reducing energy consumption.

The result is reduced environmental impact, a reduction in costs, and even increased revenue from the recovered solvent.

An amazing story, but a company didn’t achieve this. People did.

Hitting the headlines

Teva recently announced long-term environmental sustainability goals, including headline-grabbing statistics like reducing Teva’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by a third. This will align the company with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, as well as wider industry benchmarks.

Richard Pickup, Vice President for Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at Teva, agrees that these are big, ambitious plans. However, he continues, they would be nothing if not for the creativity and dedication of a huge range of projects – large and small ­– led by staff worldwide.

“The commitments we’ve made might seem daunting and challenging,” he says. “But this is all about harnessing the ingenuity of our staff. Because of that, we are very confident we are going to be able to do this. Their activities – no matter how big or small – are what can make the biggest difference.”

A new era

Teva’s new environmental commitments are captured in its 2030 goals. These replace interim goals set in 2014 and retired in 2019 after being achieved ahead of time.

These new goals are divided into three pillars:

  • Climate change action and resilience
  • Responsible use of natural resources
  • Minimizing emissions effluents and wastes

The first of these pillars acknowledges one of the most significant issues facing humanity in the next 50 years, says Ann Lee-Jeffs, Senior Director for Environment and Product Stewardship, at Teva.

“As a responsible business, we clearly have a part to play to avoid the nightmare scenarios that could come from climate change,” she says. “Our customers realize that as do our employees, investors, and other stakeholders.”

“It’s also a threat to our business. If we can’t do business, then we can’t fulfil our goal to supply quality medicines to patients around the world.”

Staff across the world are using their ingenuity to help push this agenda forward. For example, there are hundreds of feet of piping at the Teva Tech plant in Israel, all above ground and mostly at height. It is very difficult to assess whether insulation around the piping is damaged and energy is being wasted.

To address the problem, the team at the site uses thermal imaging technology to inspect the insulation. If hot spots are detected, the insulation is repaired. This improves energy loss detection, saving time on repairs and improving energy efficiency. 

Projects like this typify Richard’s call for more “day-to-day efficiency plays” to make better use of energy if the firm is to hit its target of a 33% drop in GHG emissions.

“The energy we don’t use is the greenest energy of all,” he points out wryly.

Water stress

Teva’s second and third environmental pillars – responsible use of natural resources and minimizing emissions, effluents and wastes – might not have the star power that climate change does, but they are both crucial to how Teva operates.

“Natural resources are becoming more scarce and costly,” says Richard. “As well as the environmental aspect of this – not depleting the resources we have – we’ve got to think about the cost aspect as a business.”

“We use a lot of natural resources, and they cause environmental impacts to make them, and they cost money for us to buy them,” he adds. “Our goal is to use natural resources responsibly – and that includes water because we can’t make our products without that.”

As such, one of Teva’s key environmental targets is to reduce total water withdrawal in areas projected to be in water stress, such as Israel and India, by 10%.

“How can we ensure that we have the long-term ability to provide access to medicines at the right cost if we don’t look after the natural resources we need?” he asks. “Doing the right thing for the environment is inherently tied up with the future of the business here.”

Fighting superbugs

According to Ann, it is in the third pillar – minimizing emissions, effluents and wastes – that the message often hits home easiest amongst audiences.

“We all want an environment that will sustain us, but as a company, we have a double responsibility because of the nature of what we do.”

“It’s really simple: we put products on the market to improve human health. We don’t want to harm human health or the environment by that activity,” Ann says. “If we aren’t responsible with how we handle the by-products of our operations – and how our products are handled when they get into the market ­– then we’re damaging the Earth, our customers, and our business.”

Teva has committed to minimizing both the waste from its operations and the environmental impact of its disposal. The firm has also committed to reducing anti-microbial discharges as part of its membership of the AMR Alliance. The Alliance is dedicated to fighting ‘superbugs’ resistant to antibiotics, partly due to the discharge of pharmaceutical ingredients from manufacturing plants.

Balancing act

Despite being an environmental leader at Teva, Ann is at pains to stress the 2030 environmental goals do not – and cannot ­­– stand alone.

“‘Environment’ is only one pillar of our wider Environment, Social, and Governance agenda,” she says. “We have obligations around quality production, access to medicine, social governance, and a whole lot more.

Richard accepts this leads to inevitable trade-offs.

“We are never going to compromise the safety of our products and access to them,” he says. “So while we’re doing all we can to protect the environment, we have to find efficient and cost-effective ways to provide medicines at the same time.”

“I really believe we can do it, but we’re going to need everyone at Teva on board to do it. This is everyone’s business.”

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