Product environmental stewardship

What is Product environmental stewardship at AstraZeneca?

Company efforts to identify and address the environmental impact of products from discovery in early R&D through development to launch of a new product and during its commercial lifetime to end-of-use.

Our targets and progress

Our approach

We evaluate all materials and all processes used to make our products. By emphasising the environmental stewardship of our products, we address other material focus areas including responsible R&D, responsible supply chain, greenhouse gases, pharmaceuticals in the environment, water and waste. We strive to design out negative environmental impacts, including resource depletion, waste, and emissions to air, water and land.

We are committed to ensuring responsible environmental management of our products, from discovery in the lab all the way through to the end of a product's life. The graphic below shows the life-cycle approach we follow:

Our stories

Green chemistry in the laboratory - Recycled CO2 replaces toxic substances

Scientists at our Gothenburg site in Sweden have reduced the environmental footprint of a purification process used in pre-clinical and early clinical phase manufacture. This significantly decreased Process Mass Intensity (PMI) for most projects and decreased by 80% overall solvent consumption and waste from the laboratory.

Purification is a critical step in manufacturing drug substance of the correct quality. The traditional purification process uses expensive and toxic solvents such as heptane. PMI is measured as kilograms of raw materials used to produce a kilogram of the final active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). A lower PMI means we are using materials more efficiently. The lower PMI, solvent, and waste results were achieved by implementing Supercritical Fluid Chromatography for all large-scale purifications. This replaces toxic solvents with recycled CO2 captured from the waste streams of other industries.

Sustainable Innovation in Development

Many of our employees have great ideas about how to embed sustainability into our products. To bring these ideas to life, we launched an initiative in our pharmaceutical technology and development department focused on product innovation. This initiative empowered employees by offering seed funding to develop ideas that create new opportunities to deliver sustainable innovations that align to our sustainability strategy and push the boundaries of science. Five winners were selected with projects aligned to our Environmental Protection priorities to reduce natural resource use and ensure the environmental safety of our products. One proposed eco-friendly plastic materials in devices and primary packaging.

Life cycle assessment (LCA) identifies smart chemical process

LCA is a tool used by chemical development scientists to improve environmental sustainability. LCA performance can be significantly improved during drug development through selection of preferred manufacturing technologies, chemistries and control of processing steps - an activity known as Process Design. Consideration of innovative pharmaceutical manufacturing technologies such as continuous processing can broaden the scope of accessible chemistry, improve process safety and reduce energy consumption and cycle times.

For one of our new cardiovascular renal metabolic medicines, Process Design identified both a traditional batch process for a common synthetic intermediate and an alternative continuous process. An LCA of both options established that the continuous process offered far superior environmental performance when compared to the batch process. LCA results encourage the adoption of innovative, cleaner technologies that could impact several medicines. 

Learn more about Product environmental stewardship in our Sustainability Report.