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Should Pharma be rewarding suppliers who re-use existing sites rather than building on precious Greenfield?

2nd December 2022

We all know there are many zoning reasons why pharma or chemistry manufacturers should be kept away from areas of habitation. In the past, the legislation may not have been in place to enforce zero discharge and emission legislation.

Expansion of sites for various reasons might be a necessity because of increasing business. It might also be for the welfare of staff or transport or indeed the changing of the business model.

Either way, it is often ‘cost’ or increasing business need…economics of building on a new site. Equally, though you get a conveyor belt of refurbished or redundant facilities being sold to smaller pharma players.

The larger innovators have the big bucks to influence local authorities that building a new manufacturing site will bring benefits. These benefits primarily work economically but are not efficiently utilising existing space.

With the increase in CSR shouldn’t innovators be leading the way when it comes to their appraisal of what they are building and why? If it is judged the best for the environment? The building on Greenfield sites should be a no-no except for reasons of utmost need. Innovator pharma surely needs to hunt for brownfield sites. If and when existing sites are sold surely there needs to be some promise that the site will be looked after and that the production of something useful will continue. If this isn’t happening, you will have old sites which become rotting hulks.

The complex case-by-case nature of each site dictates the way forward. We know of a large pharma splitting its headquarters and taking a site built on Greenfield. We have heard of smaller Indian pharma buildings being built on farmland. Thankfully we also have heard of companies like Primopus AG who are swallowing the costs of keeping a classic pharma site in Basel going.

Building on an existing campus on a brown site isn’t easy. It does in the end bear fruit for the environment and help their business and related business nearby. What better way to reduce your carbon footprint than placing business with a supplier on the same site?

When you look at the broader impact of the environment should industries that have developed policies in sustainability deal with companies who are indiscriminately just building on greenfield sites for no other reason than it is cheaper?

Cost to the environment, therefore, has to be a part of all considerations now. Some companies have developed very sophisticated procedures for monitoring all aspects of Carbon impact and sustainability. Should some larger pharma be putting aside their need to build huge showpiece headquarters?

Isn’t everything heading towards a nucleated approach for employment with digital connectivity…with security encrypted? So sites for manufacturing excellence are zoned.

As in all things society needs to start rewarding those who reuse. Customers need to also look at companies that are delivering sustainability and within the context of zoning modernising classic sites rather than building completely anew. So ‘all that glitters’ may not be gold…and that is coming from a marketing agency!…so there must be a glimmer of truth in relooking at existing sites and modernising what you have.

Primopus Building