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Acid rain, global warming, melting polar ice caps—companies are moving towards more sustainable means of manufacturing regardless of the industry they are in. Whether they are driven by an authentic desire to reduce harm to the planet, respond to customers’ demands (78% of which want to see change), or comply with new green regulations, there will be some cost to the changes.

Green chemistry, the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances, has been around for over three decades, showing that the industry's interest in harm reduction is not new. We are also witnessing marked improvements in measurable sustainability metrics, which better guide process and product design. These changes directly and indirectly reduce the production of materials that are harmful to health and the environment.

One of the biggest barriers to switching to more environmentally friendly and circular manufacturing practices is cost, and companies worry that investing in new machinery or retraining personnel can cut into their profits. The truth is, money can be saved when processes become more sustainable. For example, packaging that is designed with less waste in mind or is smaller costs less money to transport. Additionally, switching to a "passive" form of a drug that does not need to be stored in cooled containers can also reduce energy costs. While there will be an initial cost for research and testing of any change, in the long run, the return on investment will justify the switch. Modern profitable companies regularly audit their logistics management processes and improve them, so it is a double win when the change saves costs while also being more sustainable.

Other examples of simple changes include improving temperature calibration sensors, which can introduce significant savings in energy costs. Better water management is another process change that can directly affect the environment while also saving money. With advances in technology that can help forecast demand and constantly audit material, energy, and water use while also adjusting output, companies can easily become more sustainable.

Adopting a culture of sustainability and environmental awareness can be one of the most rewarding switches any company makes. For the pharmaceutical industry, which is tightly intertwined with human health and wellness, it would be hypocritical not to care about the planet as a whole.