Green Ireland

We are working to make our healthcare products available to an increasing number of people around the world while at the same time protecting the resources we need for the future and safeguarding the environment.

This commitment has led to GSK Ireland becoming a National Green Awards winner in 2013 – in two categories (Large Organisation and Overall Green Winner).  

Our manufacturing site just outside Cork city in the south west of the country has been leading the way with significant reductions in both energy and water use, and in waste production.

Wind turbine in Cork

In particular, since 2008 we have cut our energy-related CO2  footprint by 43% and water consumption by 56%. In 2013, over 70% of the waste from operations at Cork was either reused, recycled, or incinerated for energy recovery. No waste from the site has gone to landfill since 2011.

Reducing our carbon footprint

Part of the focus of our carbon reduction plans has been to re-examine the processes we use to make our products.

“To be carbon-neutral, we need to manage emissions in the supply chain and examine how we make our products, so that we can be as resource-efficient as possible,” explains Andy Whitehead,  who leads on next generation manufacturing Cork

For instance, the Cork facility makes a number of the ‘active pharmaceutical ingredients’ (API) for our medicines.  Making an API can involve a large chemical process, which may include multiple steps in a chemical process to synthesise the active ingredient and this might involve multiple steps with heating or washing the equipment - using up time and energy and producing waste.

When we analysed the carbon footprint of our API products we identified a number of actions that we could take to cut our carbon emissions. 

“For one of our larger-volume products, we implemented changes to the manufacturing route that will reduce the carbon footprint by 1000kg per kg of the medicine.  At the current volume, this will result in a reduction in footprint for the Cork site of 18000 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is the same reduction that 4.5 wind turbines would provide a year.”

Investing in renewable energy

We are also investing in renewable energy, including wind turbines.  Through our membership of the Cork Lower Harbour Energy Group, a group that has come together to develop renewable energy solutions for sites within the Cork Harbour area – we will be getting a portion of our energy needs from three wind turbines which will be installed this year. This should help us meet our target to cut CO2 from energy use from by 55% from the 2008 by 2015.

The wind turbine at our site in Cork was completed and switched on in May 2014.  To view a time-lapse video of the construction of this impressive structure, click here.

Changes in our offices in Dublin are also helping us meet our goals – a newly installed system to control our heating have reduced gas and electricity consumption by 30% a year and mean our heating and ventilation system is running more efficiently. Motion sensors in all communal areas also ensure the lights only come on when needed.

Similarly in our plant in county Sligo on the west coast, we are increasing energy efficiency and reducing waste. In 2013 the site achieved an overall reduction in waste generation of 6.7%, reduced water consumption by 22% and sent zero waste to landfill.

So what’s next?

Our team in Ireland is continuing to make improvements in waste management and reducing energy consumption. A 2013 energy reduction pilot project in Sligo to improve air handling within our manufacturing area yielded a 5% reduction in energy costs with an improvement in air changes within the area. This project has now being extended to other units on site.  A pilot warehouse lighting project is currently being installed in Sligo with an expected reduction of 4% in electricity usage.

We are also looking to extend our use of renewable energy.  A planning application for a wind turbine at our site in Dungarvan on the south coast has just been approved by the Waterford County Council and was also given the ‘green’ light by the local Planning Board. 

The next frontier is the introduction of biomass technology.  We are currently talking with planning authorities regarding the introduction of a wood chip boiler at our site in Dungarvan. If permission is granted, we will be able to use renewable woodchip fuel to produce steam to serve our production facilities, reducing both energy costs and CO2 emissions.  This focus on introducing renewable energy sources is part of a green strategy, not only for Dungarvan, but for all of GSK’s operations in Ireland.