Merck Cuts GHGs, Outlines Post-Merger Goals

by | Oct 3, 2011

Merck’s sales and acquisition-adjusted GHG emissions fell by six percent between 2009 and 2010, from 2.21 and 2.08, according to the company’s 2010 global corporate responsibility report, its first in accordance with GRI principles since its 2009 merger with Schering-Plough.

The pharmaceutical firm reported that its total energy consumption fell from 27.5 to 25.7 MMBTU between 2009 and 2010, and total greenhouse gas emissions (before adjusting for sales and acquisitions) dropped from 2.14 to 2.08 million metric tons.

The report includes Merck’s environmental performance data for the combined company for the years 2009 and 2010. It includes no trend data because the company is only in its second year after the merger with Schering-Plough, Merck said.

In 2010, the merged company – known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada –  reduced its number of key performance indicators for corporate responsibility, from over 80 to 36. The environmental KPIs are:

A recent report by Green Research found that pharmaceutical companies are all over the map in terms of their environmental goals and transparency, and said that Merck had the fewest number of public environmental goals, with just one.

In its new corporate responsibility report, Merck said it is targeting a ten percent reduction in the intensity of its energy demand (by square foot) at research, manufacturing and major office facilities by 2015, using 2009 performance as a baseline. Previously, Merck met a goal to cut this intensity by 25 percent by the end of 2008, from a baseline year of 2004, achieving a 28 percent reduction.

The company has established a Center of Excellence that is responsible for identifying and implementing best practices for reducing energy use across the company. Its sites are using Merck’s Best Practices Evaluation Tool to identify opportunities in such categories as HVAC, steam distribution, meters, lighting and compressed air.

The company has adopted a commitment to build all new laboratories and offices to achieve LEED Silver certification or its equivalent, and factors the potential for future emissions into capital expenditure planning, requiring all new facilities to comply with its Energy Design Guide and Energy Conservation Planner.

In February 2008, Merck announced a corporate goal to reduce GHG emissions from the company’s global facilities and automobiles by 12 percent by the end of 2012 (from the baseline year of 2004). Merck says that in 2009, it achieved and exceeded the first GHG reduction goal well ahead of schedule, and using that year as a baseline, set a new goal of a ten percent reduction by 2015.

In the U.S., it has changed vehicle standards from 6-cylinder to 4-cylinder engines, and is also adding more hybrids to its fleet.

Since 2008, Merck has installed 6.6 MW of photovoltaics at its facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and in Pavia, Italy. It says these will eliminate more than 5,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year. At its Cramlington, U.K., manufacturing facility, the company recently installed two 2 MW wind turbines.

Other GHG-reduction initiatives include installation of variable speed drives, and the use of free cooling and heat recovery from recirculating water systems.

Fresh solvent use rose from 48,000 to 59,000 metric tons in 2010, due in large part to the purchase of a large manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania, but recovered solvents also rose, from 27,000 to 36,000 metric tons.

Merck says that solvents play a key role in the synthesis of pharmaceutical compounds, their formulation into final products, and the cleaning of equipment, and are the primary component that the company must manage in its emissions, effluents and wastes. The firm says it seeks to use water-based methods for cleaning when they are equally effective, but solvents – primarily methanol – are often still required.

Merck’s emissions of ozone-depleting substances fell dramatically in 2010, from 13.2 to 1.2 metric tons.

Total water use rose from 8.1 billion to 9 billion gallons. This is related to the addition of a new operating facility that uses 1.9 billion gallons of surface water, the company said. Facilities that were operating from 2009 onwards achieved an 11 percent decrease in water demand during 2010. Merck has established a goal to reduce demand for water by 15 percent between 2009 and 2015 and by 25 percent between 2009 and 2020.

For remediation and environmental liabilities, including formerly owned and operated sites, Merck spent $34.5 million in 2008, $17 million in 2009 and $16 million in 2010. In addition, it is a potentially responsible party at 27 multi-party Superfund sites in the U.S.

Merck says that some of its facilities were operating when there were few regulations and little understanding of good environmental practices. The company says it has launched investigations and aggressive clean-up projects.

Last Thursday the EPA announced that Merck has agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty to settle allegations that it discharged pollutants in excess of limits of its Clean Water Act permit at two Pennsylvania plants.

Merck says its scientists use green chemistry principles to reduce the environmental footprint of its manufacturing processes. The company has begun tracking Process Mass Intensity (PMI) – the kilograms of raw materials used to produce one kilogram of product – as an indicator of process efficiency.

PMI is a standard approach being used by the ACS Green Chemistry Institutes Pharmaceutical Roundtable, and includes all process steps to produce a product, including those conducted by an external supplier, Merck says.

The company is calculating PMI of the top 15 APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients), which corresponds to over 90 percent of products manufactured by volume. Once it has established this baseline PMI, it plans to set an improvement target and, eventually, calculate PMIs for all major new products.

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