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AbbVie aims to create sustainability through innovation

Company has an ambitious global environmental plan

While the name AbbVie may have been around only since 2013, the global biopharmaceutical giant draws on a heritage going back some 125 years. Its history in Ireland is almost equally impressive, with the company's presence in the country dating to 1946. It currently operates two manufacturing facilities in Sligo and one in Carrigtwohill in Cork.

The company’s research and development efforts are focused on a core set of therapeutic areas in which it has proven expertise. These include immunology, kidney disease, liver disease, neuroscience, oncology and women’s health.

While its reputation for innovation in product development is well established, the company has also embarked on an ambitious global environmental health and safety (EHS) initiative which will see quite dramatic performance improvements in the coming years.

The initiative involves a number of long-term targets designed to help AbbVie meet its commitment to reducing its environmental footprint and support global initiatives such as the United Nations development programme’s sustainable development goal 13 for climate action.


Having set 2015 as the baseline, AbbVie has set a number of absolute targets to be met by 2025. Total CO2 emissions are to be reduced by 25 per cent, electricity purchased from renewable sources is to be increased by half; total water usage is to be reduced by 20 per cent; total hazardous and non-hazardous waste generated is to be cut by 20 per cent; and a recycling rate of 50 per cent is to be achieved.

The targets for 2035 are even more ambitious: CO2 emissions are to be reduced by half, while 100 per cent of electricity will come from renewable sources. Water usage will be cut by half, and a zero-waste- to-landfill policy will prevail at all AbbVie sites.

These targets will be achieved within the company’s overall EHS programme.

"Our target for the next level of EHS performance is zero incidents, zero accidental environmental spills and zero accidental environmental releases," says Michael Tuohy, EHS manager, global manufacturing operations with AbbVie Carrigtwohill.

“We vigorously protect our environment and the communities we operate in – that’s essential to success in building our company and culture.”

The programme’s key areas are climate change, water usage, waste management and product stewardship.

“Climate change is one of the most critical issues facing our planet. We are working not only to anticipate and manage the operational impacts of extreme weather patterns and water scarcity, but also to custom-tailor our products to adapt to significant changes in the global disease burden.

“We are committed to helping address this issue by reducing our direct impacts from manufacturing and by making a positive difference in managing indirect impacts across our value chain.”

On water usage he says it has become increasingly important for AbbVie to safeguard this scarce resource.

“AbbVie’s sites in Ireland are also currently implementing innovative water conservation solutions,” he says.

“AbbVie is committed to responsible product stewardship. This includes improving the environmental profile of our medicines as well as the appropriate management and control of waste. Where feasible, we work to reduce or eliminate existing waste streams.”

AbbVie has invested some €5 million in sustainable and renewable energy programmes in Ireland, including its all-Ireland energy management strategy, which operates across the three manufacturing sites in this country.

“The overall programme is delivered with a focus on innovation and replicability through the development and advancement of new technologies, systems, and approaches which have the capacity to influence sustainable energy use. The innovations are also shared within the AbbVie network for further replicability,” says Tuohy.

This approach has delivered considerable energy savings leading to a number of prestigious awards including the 2014 Chambers Ireland Excellence in Environment Award, the 2015 Sustainable Energy Achievement Award at the 2015 SEAI Green Awards and two AEE corporate energy management awards for western Europe in 2012 and 2012.

The Sligo energy team is responsible for a number of key sustainability innovations as part of the “reduce carbon footprint” programme. These included the implementation of a range of energy-saving initiatives to improve the efficiency of their space heating, chillers, air-handling units and steam boilers.

The Manorhamilton Road facility also introduced new heat- recovery systems and variable- speed drives to further reduce energy usage.

The main benefits of the programme have been a reduction in the annual energy bill of €800,000 and CO2 emissions by some 2,575 tonnes annually.

The overall target for the Manorhamilton Road site is a reduction in CO2 emissions of 30 per cent by 2020. The site has also set targets of a 20 per cenrt reduction in water consumption and waste generation by 2020. The site already achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status in 2014.

A recent project implemented at the company's site at Ballytivnan in Co Sligo was a water-optimisation initiative which involved the insertion of a 120m well, a water-treatment system and a reliable water distribution network, in order to facilitate the entire site's water requirements. The project will provide 62 million litres of water annually along with annual savings of €110,000.

A 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 is the target of the Cork facility’s “20:20 Vision” sustainability programme. Two significant projects have been completed to date under the programme: the installation of a 200kW woodchip boiler, which provides heat for the site from locally sourced woodchips, has resulted in a 5 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions while the chiller optimisation and HVAC free cooling project, which involved the installation of dampers and ducting to take advantage of cool external air and warm internal air, has resulted in a further 10 per cent reduction in emissions.

“These projects contribute to AbbVie’s goal of making a remarkable impact on lives by developing a sustainable business which constantly innovates while taking responsibility for our people, our communities and our shared environment,” says Tuohy.