Green supply chain management in the pharmaceutical sector: an investigation in the UK context

Belal, Md Mostain (2021) Green supply chain management in the pharmaceutical sector: an investigation in the UK context. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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The key focus of this thesis is to explore Green Supply Chain Management concepts (e.g., green practices, green drivers, green barriers and green performance measures) in the pharmaceutical sector. It considers a synthesized understanding of Green Supply Chain Management practices in terms of Materials, Energy and Toxicity. This synthesized framework is used as a baseline to explore related green concepts and sub-concepts in the pharmaceutical sector.
Today’s global environment has undergone a massive transformation from what it was in the last century. This transformation has translated into numerous disastrous events ranging from extreme climates, unprecedented levels of ocean pollution from plastic wastes, pesticides, drugs and other chemicals, scarcity of fresh drinking water, increased levels of tropical disease due to warmer weather, biodiversity loss leading to natural ecosystem disruptions, and many more. Whilst industrial manufacturing operations are traditionally understood to be a significant contributor to environmental pollution, pharmaceutical operations have recently been paid a considerable amount of attention by governments, regulators, NGOs, water companies, and consumers due to the presence of pharmaceuticals in the water and food cycles. Though this issue was raised many years ago, for instance, in 1976 when the river fish in England were contaminated with birth control pills, it has recently been paid significant scientific and business attention due to the issue of anti-microbial resistance. Antibiotics and painkillers are continuously being deposited into the environment and are accelerating the risk of growing microbial resistance and, hence, the future of humankind is under significant threat of illness and death from antibiotics no longer working. This is just one side of a coin of the environmental impact of pharma operations. The other side is contributing to the environmental footprint due to the pharma supply chain consuming significant amounts of energy, water, non-renewable raw materials, toxic substance etc. Therefore, an innovative management system is urgent to deal with these issues as they pose a significant threat to a company’s bottom line, as well as to wider community.
An innovative management system, such as the Green Supply Chain Management (GSCM) approach, has emerged in the supply chain and operations management domain to deal with these environmental issues. The GSCM approach considers the environmental impact in each node of a product or service supply chain. The key concepts of GSCM are: green practice, green drivers, green barriers, and green performance. Though some green practices, such as green design, green manufacturing, green purchasing, green distribution, reverse logistics and remanufacturing, are widely investigated in diversified sectors, these concepts are still not clear in the pharma sector, especially in the elemental level in terms of Materials, Energy and Toxicity. Whilst there is huge scope for applying these green concepts in pharma, there is no single study that has focused on this. Supply chain stakeholders’ level environmental analysis is crucial for pharma, and GSCM could be fertile ground for this, as pharma drug discovery, design and development, manufacturing, distribution, and use-and-disposal phases have significant affinity with environment pollution. Due to operating in a highly regulated environment and having a discovery nature of business with highly complex supply chain and stakeholder interdependence, and having an uncompromising level of attention to quality, safety and efficacy in each stage of drug production, the pharma supply chain is different from other industries. Therefore, a separate investigation is urgently required to understand the scope of GSCM in the pharma sector.
Due to the exploratory nature of the investigation, a qualitative methodology was adopted. Qualitative multi method was used for data triangulation. Using a purposive sampling strategy, 47 interviews were conducted among the managers/senior managers across upstream and downstream pharma stakeholders. The contents of 112 environmental / sustainability related reports were also analysed to collect data. The data analysis was done using both Excel database and NVIVO Pro 12 software.
Regarding the findings, many green concepts / indicators were identified, justified, and validated with empirical evidence to enrich the concept of GSCM in the pharma sector. Significant sub green design aspects were identified under materials, energy, and toxicity practice. These included design process to use greener substances, design process to increase materials efficiency, design process for energy efficiency, and design process to reduce air and water toxicity. The significant green manufacturing concepts included run continuous manufacturing, solvent recycling, waste converting to beneficiary use, and conduct eco-pharmacovigilance. Furthermore, the significant green use-and-disposal aspects included medical intervention projects (Medicine Usage Reviews, New Medicine Service), rationale prescribing, digitising prescribing and the repeat dispensing process, drug take back and drug incineration. In general, Innovative pharma are at the forefront for adopting green practices followed by bio pharma and generic pharma. Across the industry, energy related practices were predominantly and frequently used rather than materials and toxicity related practices. Costs efficiency and internal environmental commitment were the key green drivers for the innovative companies. Cost of production, bureaucratic regulatory approval of post-marketing process change, and meeting stringent quality and efficacy specification of products were key barriers for generic pharma. Operational and sophisticated engineering difficulties were predominantly felt by bio pharma in adopting green operations. Significant performance measures used by the innovative pharma included Process Mass Intensity, Amount of hazardous waste produced, Scope 1 and Scope 2 emission measures. The performance measures achieved significant results: huge solvent related costs savings due to recovery; huge energy, water savings due to energy and water kaizen projects. These were mostly achieved by innovative pharma when compared with generic and bio pharma.
The new model of GSCM for pharma equipped with sub green indicators under materials, energy and toxicity is a significant contribution to both theory and practice. This model will undoubtedly influence practitioners’ green decision making in the context. The findings (e.g., bureacratic regulatory approval of post marketing process change) are also expected to influence related policy and regulations. This study also advances the core organizational theories such as EMT, DOI and RBV through unique observation of pharma operations linking the green strategy of firms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > Business School
B. > Theses
Item ID: 36442
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2022 12:34
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 17:51

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