In reading through Newseek’s list of green companies, I was surprised to find Pfizer ranked 39th in the nation for being environmentally friendly. My major is chemical engineering, so there is a good chance I will someday work for a pharmaceutical company and be faced with the challenge of helping to make that company’s operations “greener.”
While at Bucknell, I was able to tour a large pharmaceutical plant in Danville and I was amazed to see how much time and effort is dedicated to waste treatment. Since the plant uses many harmful chemicals in the production of pharmaceutical products, the amount of chemical waste which the plant must process and make safe is massive. Based on this experience, I was surprised to see that Pfizer scored so well for being environmentally friendly since they obviously have similar issues of dealing with chemical waste from the manufacturing facilities.
In doing some research on Pfizer, I found a brief description of their greening efforts on their own website. They really don’t explain what they have done to be greener, they basically just say that they care about the environment and use green chemistry to keep their operations as green as possible. I also find an article from the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Magazine in which a senior engineering director at Pfizer discusses some of the gains that Pfizer has made recently in greening their operations. They have focused on reducing the energy used by their manufacturing processes and reducing the amount of solvents used in the manufacturing of many new drugs, since solvents are often hazardous and must be further treated before they can be disposed of. I also found an article in a Connecticut newspaper The Day, which discusses the economics of Pfizer becoming greener. By reducing energy usage and using less of certain hazardous chemicals, Pfizer is able to not only help protect the environment but also save money on energy and raw materials. This economic incentive is likely what led Pfizer to become greener in the first place, but regardless of the reason it is still fascinating to see that a company which often deals with chemicals which can be very hazardous to the environment has made such a great effort to be environmentally friendly.