Indian pharma’s green initiatives

Indian pharma’s green initiatives

Does the Indian pharma industry have an environmental strategy in place? How do they implement it? Viveka Roychowdhury explores these ‘green’ initiatives

“The two core values of Ranbaxy’s environmental philosophy are “to be a Responsible corporate citizen” and “to manage operations with a high concern for safety and the environment””

– Ramesh Adige Executive Director

Global Corporate Affairs & Communications, Ranbaxy

Ask any corporate what the focus of a particular financial year is and the traditional responses you would get are ‘increasing market share’, ‘sharpening competitive edge’, ‘coping with change’ or ‘achieving quality standards’. Very rarely will ‘strategic environmental management’ feature on this list.

However environmental strategy formation and implementation are slowly making it to the priority lists of Indian corporates. The pharma industry is also making it part of their agenda. Environment management is vital to pharma companies as the final products, medicines, have to be of the highest purity. Therefore pharma manufacturing facilities have stringent quality control norms governing internal cleanliness. This is done with equipment like clean rooms, HEPA filters and water purification techniques like ion exchange systems, etc.

It follows that since pharma companies are in the business of safeguarding life, they are as keen to safeguard the external environment while conducting business. This is even more necessary as the pharma industry is considered a waste-intensive industry; the ratio of waste to product is often 10:1.While it is true that newer technologies across industries aim to be ‘cleaner’ technologies and are geared towards pollution prevention rather than treatment, it often comes down to implementation of laws and norms.

Market leaders like Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL) have taken a proactive stance. DRL is one of the few, and the only Indian pharma company to release an annual report, called the Sustainability Report. This is a voluntary information sharing exercise, meant for both internal and external audiences. The scope of the report, available on the company’s website, is to not just discuss health, environment and safety issues, but also social, ethical and economic topics of importance across the given financial year. It aims to generate greater employee awareness as well as a broader industry responsibility.

Similarly, Ramesh Adige, Executive Director, Global Corporate Affairs & Communications, Ranbaxy says, “The two core values that form the basis of Ranbaxy’s environmental philosophy are ” to be a Responsible corporate citizen” and ” To manage operations with a high concern for safety and the environment”. This philosophy is embedded in our Corporate Environment Health Safety (EHS) Policy and is evident in the rigour of the ISO14001 certification of our key API manufacturing sites.”

“Employees are made conscious of the concept of minimizing waste wherever possible rather than generating and disposing of the same”

– Ajit Kamath Chairman and Managing Director

Arch Pharmalabs

Indoco Remedies has its own strong policy wherein each production unit is equipped with effluent treatment plan which is designed by industrial consultant by keeping in mind of waste generated at the end of operations. “For air pollution we have installed Prefilter, Hepa filters (with 0.3 microns) where dust gets totally filtered and clean air goes into atmosphere. The company has got its own well equipped laboratory to check, all the parameters like COD, BOD, pH etc., while treating the waste water and after treatment clear water we store in tanks and using it for gardening,” informs the Indoco Remedies spokesperson.

Explaining his company’s approach to environment management, Ajit Kamath, Chairman and Managing Director, Arch Pharmalabs says, “With the shift of more and more chemical manufacturing to countries like India and China, we in India need to more so commit ourselves to the values that we do not in any way pollute air, water or soil in the process of creating value for our stakeholders.”

Green dividends

“We believe that the environment and economy are twin partners in the pursuit of quality existence”

– Satish Reddy
CEO and MD


These efforts are now showing results, not just in a greener environment, but also in a corresponding number of saved ‘greenbacks’. “We believe that the environment and economy are twin partners in the pursuit of quality existence. It is also our experience that initiatives taken to improve the environmental impact of a given process, has a positive impact, most of the time, on the cost economics of the given process. In view of this, we continuously review our manufacturing processes to make them environmentally as harmless as possible and cost-effective,” according to Satish Reddy, CEO and MD, DRL.

The company has also taken up an ‘eco-restoration’ project as a ‘long-term’ investment.

Previously a natural lake at their FTO Unit III had turned into a stagnant pool of muddy water due to soil erosion. According to the 2005-06 Sustainability report, the company has successfully de-silted the lake and converted it into a clear year-round water body, which can also be used for water harvesting. As an unexpected bonus, DRL today has a beautiful lake on its premises, which is used as a year-round recreational zone by employees, especially in the sweltering summers. This location has been further beautified with walks and the company plans to make it the site of a training centre in the near future.

The key to strategic environmental management is to spread the message and get as many people involved. There has to be a continuum to include attitude towards environmental management, compliance record, level of environmental training, environmental department structure and community relationship. Thus employee training programmes are very important as are community efforts. At DRL, 4016 person-days were invested in training – classroom and field – related to SHE covering 788 sessions in 2005-06.

“Employees are encouraged to actively participate in the ISO14001 Environmental Management System and follow the Corporate EHS Guidelines on Employee Involvement. Such activities extensively define the employee’s roles in implementing the environmental management system, effectively,” says Adige of Ranbaxy’s systems.

Indoco Remedies conducts training programmes and seminars on environmental policies by industrial experts, and all employees take an active part in the same. The company also conducts environment audits to evaluate how good the company’s environmental system is and in case of any improvement same is taken up immediately. Records of mock drills, submission of environmental statement / reports etc. are also maintained.

Kamath of Arch Pharmalabs emphasizes that their employees are made conscious of the concept of “minimizing waste wherever possible rather than generating and disposing of the same”.

Section 25 of the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution), Act 1974 Section 21 of the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act 1981 Hazardous Waste Rules 1989, issued under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 Companies need to submit environmental audit reports for the Financial Year ending 31st March in form V to the concerned state pollution control board

(Source: Indoco Remedies)

Evolving needs

“We are also constantly evolving our equipment to make them compliant with latest standards”

– Rajesh Sharma

Vice Chairman and Managing Director

Ion Exchange India Limited (IEIL)

As the pharma industry evolves, their requirements by way of environment management techniques also changes. Thus we have technology upgrades on all sides.

“The pharma industry has been continuously evolving over the past decade, and standards have been changing frequently, to become much higher to global requirements,” says Rajesh Sharma, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Ion Exchange India Limited. “For us, this means much higher purity of water, better equipment and adequate documentation that validates the process. Thus we are also constantly evolving our equipment to make them compliant with latest standards so that the highest quality of purified water is available to the pharma industry, with exhaustive documentation that validates the process. We have a separate specialist team which keeps continuous track of pharma standards and are constantly innovating our products and technologies to meet the stringent and changing demands of our customers in this highly technical industry.”

‘The current trend involves using chemical free systems like reverse osmosis (RO) and electrodeionisation (EDI) to produce purifed water, hot water sanitisible systems using hot water to stop proliferation of bacteria rather than using chemicals and automised systems to avoid user intervention,” adds Sharma.

Sharma also points out that globally everybody is talking about recycling to meet water scarcity. He says that there are two distinct trends: availability of this resource and disinfection techniques. Different regions address the availability issue in different ways. Coastal regions go in for desalination plants while water starved cities are considering recycling while in Tamil Nadu, they are recycling sewage. Ion Exchange has already set up about six desalination plants in the country. “Many states today require industries to be zero-discharge so industries are forced to recycle water used. New membrane technologies are being used purify sewage wastes. So the main challenges will be sewage and solid waste management,” opines Sharma. On the disinfection issue, Sharma says that a new trend is to use bioactive reactors to reduce the high BOD/COD levels of pharma effluents. IEIL also has technologies that tackle air pollution to insure that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) meet emission standards.

ISO 14001 was first published in 1996 and specifies the actual requirements for an environmental management system. It applies to those environmental aspects which the organization has control and over which it can be expected to have an influence.

ISO 14001 is often seen as the corner stone standard of the ISO 14000 series. However, it is not only the most well known, but is the only ISO 14000 standard against which it is currently possible to be certified by an external certification authority. Another common certification system is OHSAS Management Systems, which is an international Occupational Health and Safety management system specification. It comprises two parts, 18001 and 18002 and embraces BS8800 and a number of other publications. It was created via a concerted effort from a number of the worlds leading national standards bodies, certification bodies, and specialist consultancies.

OHSAS helps minimise risk to employees/etc; improve an existing OH&S management system; demonstrate diligence; gain assurance; etc. The benefits can be substantial

OHSAS 18001: 2007 has been developed to be compatible with the ISO 9001 (Quality) and ISO 14001 (Environmental) management systems standards. It is hoped that any organization that implements OHSAS 18001:2007 can easily integrate it with other quality, environmental or occupational health and safety management systems. The OHSAS 18001:2007 Specification follows the Plan-Do-Check-Review cycle, with a concurrent emphasis on continual improvement. This model aligns well with the structure of other management system documents such as ISO 14001, thus aiding the progress of integrated management systems.
The elements of OHSAS 18001:2007 includes Policy and commitment, Hazard identification, risk assessment and risk controls, Legal requirements, Objectives and Programs, Organization and personnel, Training, Communication and Consultation, Documentation and records, Operational Controls, Emergency Readiness, Measurement and monitoring, Accident and incident investigation, corrective and preventive action, Audit and Review, and Application and Relevance in the Industry.


Spreading information

Building a relationship with communities living in the same areas as the company’s manufacturing plants is also important. That way, both the corporate and the community can co-exist harmoniously. “Concern and action are part of our business processes. Arch meets the community to take feedback on various developmental efforts and their impact. For example, when a new project is initiated, key community leaders and spokespersons are explained about the project and how environmental impacts have been addressed right at the planning stage,” says Kamath.

The Indian pharma industry is following global corporate norms as far as environmental management is concerned. However, for every Ranbaxy or DRL, there are innumerable smaller drug manufacturing units which flout the rules. A recent study by the Swedish Goteborg University has found high levels of 59 pharmaceuticals, including 21 drugs, in effluent samples taken from a waste water treatment plant serving bulk drug manufacturers in Patancheru, near Hyderabad. If higher-than permissible levels of antibiotics enter the local water bodies, this could destroy the ecological balance, killing off fish and birds which depend on these water bodies. Even more damaging is the slur on the Indian pharma industry’s global reputation. Pharma companies who are following the law, in letter as well as spirit, therefore need to educate other smaller players so that their efforts are not in vain.