The work we do starts with the patient in mind. We are committed to making a positive impact on people, society and the planet. We aspire to develop products that are inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable to achieve the highest level of safety, user experience and patient outcomes with all of our products.
Research and Development
We consider environmental factors beginning with the earliest stages of design and development. We use the 12 principles of green chemistry, environmental risk assessments, packaging manufacturing reviews and an environmental development review process to evaluate potential environmental impacts during the scale-up of production to manufacturing levels.
Materials and Natural Resources
Our stakeholders, including customers, governments and suppliers worldwide, are increasingly focused on the materials and chemicals used to make pharmaceutical products. A key component of our sustainability strategy is to reduce our carbon footprint by continuing to increase the use of environmentally friendly materials and processes. Additionally, through our chemical management program, we work to reduce our use of materials, water and other natural resources when possible.
We recognize that our manufacturing processes require the use of valuable natural resources. Our priorities include compliance with applicable HSE regulations, policies, procedures and standards as we work to continually improve our environmental performance related to energy efficiency, waste minimization and water management. We strive to reduce Lilly’s environmental impacts associated with our own manufacturing processes as well as our contract manufacturing organizations.
Product Transportation and Logistics
We consider many factors when selecting product packaging, including sustainability aspects such as materials reuse and recyclability. We have formed a green logistics team that seeks to optimize both shipment volumes and transportation methods to reduce packaging materials and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Our product journey is circular and always comes back to where it started – the patient.
We work with stakeholders to ensure cost-effective approaches are available for product end-of-life disposal that balance environmental protection, patient safety and privacy, legal compliance and security.
We commit to understanding the potential effects of pharmaceuticals in the environment (PiE). We support using science-based evaluations to assess and reduce the environmental risks of our pharmaceutical products. Through collaborations with industry partners, academic researchers and regulatory agencies, we continually work to further understand and proactively address any potential impacts from our products.
Green chemistry has been a focus at Lilly for many years. From the selection of candidate molecules through the identification of manufacturing processes, our development teams engage in a variety of activities during research and development to design sustainably, including:
Eliminating or reducing the hazardous materials or chemicals of concern used to make a product
Focusing on removal of substances of very high concern (SVHC) as classified by the European Chemicals Agency
Shrinking the waste profiles of certain molecules through reduced solvent and water use
Increasing the overall efficiency of material use
Advancing the underlying green chemistry of medicine development and making production both safer and more environmentally friendly through a commitment to continuous process improvement
Implementing new manufacturing technologies that minimize environmental impact, including continuous flow processes, which Lilly has worked to advance in the pharmaceutical industry.
By employing green chemistry, we have also been able to enhance the safety profile of manufacturing processes by reducing the risk of the most hazardous manufacturing steps. We are also focused on the adoption of greener and safer solvents where possible. For example, we have replaced several hazardous solvents and hazardous air pollutants with safer alternatives in our chemical synthesis operations.
- Sustainable Oligonucleotide Manufacturing – Co-authored a paper examining the sustainability challenges and opportunities in Oligonucleotide manufacturing, including minimizing waste and production costs.
- Patent for Greener Medicine – Developed improvements in solvent efficiency and published a process patent and manuscript describing continuous chemistry for Lilly’s once-weekly dual glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor.
In 2022, we worked with industry peers to improve the iGAL metric. Yield and convergence were added as new key sustainability indicators and include a new formula for convergence with potential applicability in computer assisted synthesis planning (CASP) algorithms. The improved statistical model of iGAL 2.0 represents a valuable extension to the common API process waste metrics, process mass intensity (PMI) and complete E factor (cEF). We believe that iGAL 2.0 can readily be adopted by pharmaceutical firms around the globe and thereby empower and inspire their scientists to make meaningful and significant contributions to sustainability.
Global Chemical Management
Governments around the world and across many of the regions where we operate have developed chemical management legislation, such as the REACH regulation in the EU that requires companies to collect and register information about certain chemicals they manufacture or use, unless those chemicals are exempt.
These regulations may require replacing chemicals identified as hazardous with safer alternatives, when available. To address these concerns, we have implemented a formal program and screening process to evaluate designated “chemicals of concern” throughout the pharmaceutical research and development process. Our process also addresses mitigation steps where new restrictions may impact our existing operations. This assists us with ensuring that our facilities and supply chain remain in compliance with chemical management laws.
During the scale-up of medicine production to manufacturing levels in our pharmaceutical business, we use an Environmental Development Review process to evaluate other potential environmental issues and opportunities. This process identifies and addresses potential impacts arising from manufacturing, suggests process improvements and facilitates learning as new medicines transition from the laboratory to the manufacturing facility.
Ensuring that our medicines have a smaller impact on the environment does not stop with green chemistry. We also focus extensively on water use, waste and Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (PiE). Learn more about our waste and water efforts.
We consider many sustainability factors in selecting product packaging, including material use and recyclability. Pharmaceutical packaging must meet stringent regulatory and internal standards. In some cases, this prevents us from using recycled content, as is the case with container closure systems that come into direct contact with our products. We continually seek to improve packaging design to reduce the amount of packaging used, use lower-impact materials and ensure recyclability. Examples of some of our packaging initiatives include:
EndeavAir Project – We are committed to improving the sustainability of packaging used for transporting medicines by air and sea freight. Historically, we used a single-use insulated package. After researching and testing alternatives, we arrived at a reusable shipping container that improves performance and increases capacity, thus reducing the number of shipments overall. We have implemented this new packaging solution at our sites in Japan and Spain, and aim to expand use to other geographies in the coming years.
Recycling of Data Loggers – Every year, thousands of data loggers – small temperature measuring devices that ensure the quality of our pharmaceutical products – are used in logistics and then simply thrown away. We were able to develop a recycling program for these devices in cooperation with our manufacturer. In 2022 we were able to recycle approximately 30,000 data loggers.
Unlike many consumer products that can be recycled or are composed of materials that can be reclaimed at the end of their usefulness, many of our medicines are by nature, different. Public health regulations often prohibit the use of recovered materials from pharmaceutical products like those produced by Lilly. We continue to work with customers, industry partners and public health officials to address these product end-of-life issues.
We promote policy decisions that are efficient, effective and protect both human health and the environment. We also support educating patients and caregivers on proper disposal of medicines, as well as disposal of syringes, needles and other sharps used in home settings. We communicate this information to patients through product user manuals and The Lilly Answers Center, a hotline that answers frequently asked questions about our products.
We are a member of the Pharmaceutical Product Stewardship Work Group (PPSWG), a U.S.-based membership association that coordinates pharmaceutical manufacturer efforts to respond to state and local household medicine and sharps takeback laws. We are a participating company in MED-Project USA and MED-Project LLC (“MED-Project”), owned by PPSWG, which serve as the stewardship organization designated by PPSWG members to implement and operate mandated household unwanted medicine and sharps take-back programs. The MyOldMeds.com website is provided by PPSWG as an easy way for patients to find a site near them to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired medicines from households.
We also engage with other industry stakeholders on these matters in the EU, such as European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), and in Canada (Health Products Stewardship Association).
- efforts led by pharmaceutical associations
- collaborations with other pharmaceutical and device manufacturing companies
- supplier-led sustainability collaborations.
In addition, we are providing financial and resource support to potential partners for testing of newer recycling technologies that could lead to recycling and reuse of plastic after our devices are used by patients.
- Germany – Lilly is conducting a device take-back pilot program in Germany. By partnering with several hospitals and physician offices in the Berlin area, we are collecting injection devices for some of Lilly’s diabetes products after they have been used by patients. These devices are then transported to a local company that is working to convert plastic waste to chemical feedstock for making new plastic. This effort was initially launched with a limited number of hospitals in 2020, and has since been expanded to include additional hospitals, pharmacies and physician offices in Germany. While still in its infancy, the pilot program is a next step in our efforts to increase the circularity of our devices and minimize their environmental impact.
- Denmark – Lilly has joined a collaborative effort with Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Merck to pioneer the world's first cross-industry solution for recycling injection pens. The pilot program launched in May 2023 and is planned for 12 months. The ambitious target for the first 12 months is for 25% of all injection pens distributed by the four companies in Denmark to be recycled. This is the equivalent of 25 tonnes of plastic. The collaboration has been launched in Denmark, leveraging the existing recycling infrastructure in the country.
View Lilly’s environmental data from 2020, including our previous goals and progress through 2020. Additional historical data are available in our reporting archives.
Explore our Environmental Goals and Progress
See important information about our ESG report.