Sustainable Pharmaceutical Long-Term Data Management

Archiving & Preservation / 10 Oct, 2022

Sustainable Pharmaceutical Long-Term Data Management

The carbon footprint of the pharmaceutical industry is significant.  Global greenhouse gas emissions directly generated by the pharma industry are estimated to be about 52 megatonne CO2 equivalent per year.  To put this in context, the worldwide pharmaceutical industry carbon footprint is greater than that of the automotive industry.    

It is no surprise that there are now major initiatives afoot to reduce this footprint.  The Pharma Alliance to Zero aims to transition the industry to net zero carbon emissions and inline with the Paris agreement.  Specific companies, e.g. GSK, have pledged to become net zero sooner, for example by 2030, with some having aggressive timescales such as Johnson and Johnson using 100% renewable energy by 2025.  The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is committed to net zero and on 1st July 2022, the NHS became the first health system to embed net zero into legislation, through the Health and Care Act 2022.   

Innovative new approaches to manufacturing, such as PACE, help reduce footprint, both directly and through less wastage.  Companies are aligning with the drive towards zero emissions, for example, Lupin Healthcare has offset all carbon emissions associated with this inhaler, enabling it to become the first carbon neutral pMDI available to the UK market.  Energy suppliers such as, Schneider Electric, have initiatives to provide the whole pharma supply chain with renewable energy 

There is a lot going on!  There is also a lot more to do. 

Fitting data into the pharmaceutical net zero picture 

It’s only possible to achieve net zero if all activities in the pharmaceutical industry are included and aim to reduce their emissions, and that includes the digital aspects of archiving and preservation of all the data and records involved.  For example, for drugs this includes lab data, clinical data, manufacturing data, pharmacovigilance data and more.   This data needs to be retained and preserved under GxP regulations for extended periods of time, for example 25 years for GCP TMF and even longer for GVP.   

Keeping digital data and applying effective digital preservation has a carbon footprint, not least because it involves the ongoing use of ICT systems for storing and processing data and these have associated emissions.   Admittedly, the footprint is not on the scale of the labs where drugs are developed, the manufacturing facilities where they are produced, or the supply chains involved in their distribution – but the carbon footprint of data retention, archiving and preservation is still something that can, and should, be reduced and ideally eliminated. 

Sustainable digital preservation 

At Arkivum, we provide a cloud hosted data archiving and digital preservation solution.  We can measure and reduce the carbon footprint of running our service in the cloud.   The footprint is minimised, thanks to the way that we have engineered our solution. For example, we only use ICT resources when there is data to be ingested and not leaving servers running idle.  We did this as part of the award-winning ARCHIVER project.   

This is just one of our multiple measures we have for minimising emissions as a business.  For example, we use a shared office space that has good public transport connectivity (our staff often work from home to minimise travel anyway), and is supplied by energy on a green tariff, embraces the use of recycled materials and furniture, and makes use of carbon offsetting.    

Whilst there is always more to do, we believe Arkivum is at the forefront of data archiving and digital preservation vendors by believing that sustaining the environment is just as important as sustaining the data that we are entrusted to keep. 


Matthew Addis

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