For the pharmaceutical industry, outsourcing doesn’t only mean an increase in efficiency and compliance but a way to make operations environmentally more sustainable.

As companies are striving to find more environmentally friendly practices, their partners and supply chains have become an important part of the sustainability puzzle. According to the 2020 State of the Supply Chain Sustainability Report by MIT, almost 80 percent of companies believe that sustainability is or will become a part of the supply chain professionals’ core responsibilities.

For the pharmaceutical industry, building strong networks and supply chains is mainly driven by the need to focus on their core business and drive innovation. But outsourcing can be a step towards greener practices, too. A good example of this is the humble workwear.

Industrial scale washing saves energy and water

“One could think that the laundry is just laundry. But when it’s done at an industrial scale, the level of hygiene stays high while the usage of energy, water and detergents becomes lower,” explains Taru Jokinen, Director, Service Management at Lindström, a company providing cleanroom services and workwear for the pharmaceutical industry in Finland, India, China, and Russia. In addition to the previously mentioned countries, the pharmaceutical industry is in focus also in Turkey and Slovenia.

Especially in areas where water shortage is a significant threat, companies have been pushed to find water-conserving solutions. According to Manas Kumar, Strategic Marketing and Business Development Director at Lindström, all of the company’s customers in China and India have set targets to reduce their water consumption. In this, efficient laundry services play a big role.

“With our customers, we have reached up to 40% savings in water consumption. When you add this to replacing disposables with reusables, it makes a big difference environmentally.”

Pharma heading towards a circular economy

Traditionally, the pharmaceutical industry has used a lot of single-use, plastic-based garments that either end up in the landfill or are incinerated, depending on the conditions they have been used in.

“Shifting to reusable garments means a significant reduction in the amount of waste generated”, says Kumar. With the help of technology and data, the companies can follow the lifecycle of each garment, while making sure that all compliance requirements are met.

The next step is to move towards a circular economy and find ways to reuse the materials of discarded cleanroom workwear. Meanwhile, the focus is on testing how to prolong the lifetime of the workwear and utilise the materials more effectively.

“Together with pharma, we are constantly figuring out how to make the process even more environmentally friendly, whether it’s making the life cycle of the garments longer or finding ways to reduce the amount of plastic used in packing the washed clothes”, Jokinen explains.

Lindström has a dedicated team working on improving the laundry processes from the ecological perspective – while making sure the stringent hygiene standards are being upheld.

“Sometimes you think that a part of the process is so refined it can’t be done more sustainably”, Jokinen says. “And then you discover that it actually can be done even better.”

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