Sustainability and the Pharmaceutical Sector

PharmaPortalen and Pharma Online arranged the seminar ”Läkemedelsmarknadsdagen 2011” today, focusing sustainable development in the pharmaceutical sector. They had invited a number of speakers representing the industry as well as agencies, but also academia and journalists. A good mixture of perspectives. Jonny Sågänger, Pharma Online’s Editor, introduced the day by giving definitions of sustainability and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), and by spelling out the main questions for the day: What are the drivers for CSR-initiatives? Does CSR provide business opportunities and/or risk minimization? How strong are the demands from internal and external stakeholders?

Jonny Sågänger gives an introduction

Jonny Sågänger gives an introduction

First speaker was Magnus Thyberg from TLV (the Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency). TLV has been in focus for, and they have participated in, several discussions lately regarding green pharmaceuticals and green incentives, e.g. yesterday’s round-table meeting at LIF. See also my blog posts from Sept 20 regarding TLV and green incentives in the reimbursement system. As is obvious in the Sept 20-blog post, TLV does not seem to have green incentives as their top proposal for addressing potential environmental impacts from pharmaceuticals. The rather tend to promote MPA’s GMP-proposal. TLV’s objections to introducing green incentives in the pricing and reimbursement system is that the Swedish market is too small. I would rather say that it is ”small or big enough to be used as a perfect case study”.

Magnus Thyberg and the pharma strategy

Magnus Thyberg and the pharma strategy

And Magnus gave of course also some insight into the possibilities that TLV does see of introducing green incentives. What will happen is hard to tell, but we will for sure follow Stina Wallström’s review of green incentives and the reimbursement system with great interest. Magnus gave a brief description of the work task Sofia W has in front of her.

Charlotte Unger

Charlotte Unger

Charlotte Unger from MPA entered the stage after Magnus. Charlotte discussed the three main proposals from MPA’s report in Dec 2009:

- Environmental requirements in GMP (Good Manufaturing Practice)

- The ERA (Environmental Risk Assessment) as a part of the risk/benefit analysis when making decisions on market authorization

- A review of the pricing and reimbursement system to allow for green incentives

You already know my preference here. I strongly believe that green incentives is a much faster, and a more efficient way, to ”greening the sector”.

Charlotte also gave brief comments to the work on pharmaceuticals and the environment in the work process of the All Party Committee on Environemntal Objectives.

Anita Finne-Grahnén from LIF (the Association of the Research Based Industry in Sweden) then gave us a short descriptions on CSR initiatives at the industry association level. She focused the LIF initiative to environmentally classifying active pharmaceutical ingridients, and publish the information on fass.se, and the very developed ethical regulations which governs all our business operations.

Anita Finne-Grahnen from LIF

Anita Finne-Grahnen from LIF

I think the ethical rules are a very good example of very valuable CSR-efforts. We should as an industry be very proud of these rules. It secures that our business are conducted properly, without any ”corruptive” ingridients. We should however be much better to communicate on this. I think large parts of the public still believe that business are done as incorrectly shown in the Hollywood movie ”Love and other drugs”… Not strange then, that our reputation in not the best…

Christina Ruden from MistraPharma

Christina Ruden from MistraPharma

Christina Rudén provided us with the perspective from academia. She presented results from the first phase of MistraPharma and also gave some insigths what will come during Phase 2 of MistraPharma, which has recently been granted by Mistra.

Mikael Salo, MiljöAktuellt

Mikael Salo, MiljöAktuellt

After a lunch break we got the opportunity to listen to Mikael Salo’s (editor MiljöAktuellt) perspectives on sustainability and the pharmaceutical sector. Mikael used the results from the Sustainable Brands 2011 investigation to elaborate on the issue. I have discussed those results before (see my blog post from March 22), but although there might be ”good explanations” or ”good excuses” for the extremely poor result for the pharma industry (at the bottom when it comes to the public’s rating of sustainbility performance), it definitely tells us something…

Sustainable Brands results

Sustainable Brands results

We are not good on communication. We need to better ”tell our stories”. How should we do to spread information like the one published on pfizer.se regarding CSR and sustainability (a brief introduction, information in somewhat more detail, or detailed information on our sustainability initiatives), or the information on Pfizer’s global webpage regarding sustainability and Corporate Responsibility.

After Mikaels presentation we received two lectures on industry case studies when it comes to sustainability programs.

Zeljko Tucak and APL

Zeljko Tucak and APL

First a presentation on APL given by Zeljko Tucak and then about AstraZeneca’s programs (presented by Tove Engström).

Tove Engström and AZ

Tove Engström and AZ

Two impressive presentations and a number of good examples of industry initiatives. Listening to these examples, it becomes very clear that this industry’s sustainability reputation should be better… Then why isn’t it? I personally believe that we need to communicate more widely, more frequently, more interactively and more transparently. We need to interact with all different stakeholders, through all different types of communication channels. But we also need to decide whether or not we actually want to build our corporate brand or if we will continue to focus upon our product brands. To me there is a very important difference here to bear in mind – when we discuss product brands, we are to a large extent forbidden to communicate with the public, hence very difficult to build a reputation… Corporate brand communication – about our values and non-product related information, can be shared much more freely.

This take us to the last speaker of the day, Tomas Brytting. Tomas also represents academia (from Ersta Sköndal Högskola), and he gave a though provoking lecture on CSR, on stakeholder engagement and dialogue, and what actually drives CSR-initiatives. He was very clear that he doubted that ”economic profitability” was the only reason to work with social responsibility issues such as human rights. And of course he is right. The values embedded in our corporations do play a significant role in these programs!

Tomas Brytting

Tomas Brytting

The seminar ended with a panel discussion where I and some of the speakers of the day discussed and further elborated on CSR inititives, CSR drivers, and what will happen in the coming years. I think I can say that everyone agreed that CSR (both social and environmental sustainability) is a key to success, and that it will grow more and more important over the coming years. To some extent of course it is embedded in the values of the corporations, and should of course definitely be so in an industry working for a healthier world. But financial opportunities are also important. This takes me back to the issue of green incentives… I really hope to see green incentives in the reimbursement system. That would help to further develop the sustainability programs in the industry!

This was a good and interesting seminar. I should probably give you more details from the discussions, but I am rather tired now. Time to go to bed and get some sleep. There is another work-day coming up tomorrow. I’ll be on a train to Gothenburg discussing environmental sustainability with some stakeholders, but more on that later…

2 comments on “Sustainability and the Pharmaceutical Sector

  1. Nina Hedlund skriver:

    Tack Bengt för att du var med och gjorde dagen till en fin dag!Och för att du redan har dokumenterat den medan vi andra låg och sov :-) Vi på Pharma Online hoppas kunna ta ämnet vidare och arrangera fler stora eller små event kring CSR inom läkemedelsindustrin.

  2. Bengt Mattson skriver:

    Stort tack dig dig Nina, och till Pharma Online, för ett bra seminarium!

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