Pfizer's manufacturing changes help it hit emissions goal

Remember when reducing greenhouse emissions was the big thing in corporate boardrooms? While the whole getting greener movement has lost a bit of steam in the face of deflated earnings in the industry, Pfizer ($PFE) has pressed on.

Energy improvements in some of its plants and changes in the way it upgrades and builds them has helped Pfizer become the greener drugmaker that it strives to be. It says it whittled another 20% off greenhouse emissions in the last four years, beating its timeframe by a year and paying for it with $85 million in annualized savings. It is the second time since 2000 that Pfizer has hit its target.

While the 1,500 projects that led to reduction come from across the company, Pfizer has gained some significant improvements from manufacturing plant changes, including an upgrade at its massive Freiburg, Germany, operation. Because it was a rehab, some sustainability technologies were wiped off the board initially but Pfizer was still able to turn in an 80% improvement in greenhouse emissions there.

The plant is Pfizer's largest manufacturing and packaging facility. Engineers developed its so-called SPRING-E MAP, a master plan to balance sustainability and project costs. The plan comprised 5 major projects and more than 200 smaller ones.

They include geothermal heating and cooling of buildings, use of biomass steam and biomass absorption cooling for manufacturing and packaging; and adiabatic cooling for labs. Photovoltaic technology helped provide electricity. The result? More than 90% of the site's energy generation comes from renewable sources.

The company has done similar things at other plants. Its monoclonal antibody small-scale facility in Cork, Ireland, was built with recycled materials when possible, including 5,000 cubic meters of crushed rubble as substructure and 30,000 cubic meters of excavated material for site fill and landscaping.

That was in 2010. Unfortunately, Pfizer is cutting jobs in Cork, part of its downsizing in the face of rapidly declining Lipitor sales. The company did not respond to a question of whether downsizing had helped it meet its greenhouse emission goals. 

- read the release

Special Report: Pfizer/Wyeth - The 12 greenest companies in biopharma