Water Sustainability at Merck – A presentation by Mary Buzby

Merck International is a US based international pharmaceutical company with the vision to make a difference in the lives of people globally through our innovative medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, consumer care and animal health products.

From individuals to companies to nations, water is vital and a huge concern and major risk component. Dr. Buzby points out six challenges in water today ranging from mining and agriculture, watersheds, to global warming, nutrients inputs as well as access to water, and trace constituents in the water. Unlike carbon, water is not only a global problem, but also a regional and local problem and these problems must be tackled in similar perspective. Industry must be part of the solution.

Dr. Buzby said, “Industries has a huge role in the solution. Industries have access to such profound raw materials and has impact to such wide range of ecosystems and thus must be more responsible in their actions.” Other than the environment, social and economic perspectives are also important. At Merck, the goal is to provide 85% of its products readily available to 85% of the population. A goal that encompassed all three legs of the triple bottom line of sustainability.

At Merck, sustainability is described in four steps. The first is focus on compliance. This is the foundation of the company. Each facility must adhere to the regulations and policies of the company, of the local government, of the national government, and of the international bodies. The second step is the responsible with own footprint. Merck has perform comprehensive studies of its water footprint which allows for the most efficient process with minimal raw materials while still producing the greatest profits and minimal damage to the environment. The third step which Merck is still in the process of is the management of a responsible value chain. Finally, the last step is to point Merck on path to true environmental sustainability

Merck has a particular focus on water. Merck being in the pharmaceutical company, recognize the link between water and health. So with all other environmental problems, why the focus on water? Dr. Buzby explain that with filters including supply chain risk, global issue, and human health; water jumped out. Merck has a water goal to reduce absolute water use by 25% in 2020, reduce COD discharged by 20% in 2020, and reduce nutrients discharge by 15% in 2020. (baseline 2009)

Merck has similar water commitments as other water stewardship programs in the industry. One unique part of the commitment is the commitment to flight water-related disease. One example is Merck for Mothers which is a problem that address the mortality in women during pregnancy; including providing clean water. Merck also has a strong commitment in the local communities including giving employee a week pay while volunteering for their local communities on projects.

Merck’s water project portfolio showed over 100 programs related to water. Merck’s portfolio shows that instead of the traditional water mitigation projects such as building a desalination plant, Merck is taking an adaptive approach including a full examination of its footprint and evaluation of water saving innovations as well as water saving programs. From intake of water to recycling to ultimately discharge, Merck’s water project portfolio has project covering each of the steps globally as well as site specific projects that are unique to each facility. Like all companies that have established water stewardship programs, Merck has a water risk mapping to further pinpoint which of its facilities or supply chain require special attentions and programs are established and added to the water project portfolio to combat against the risk.

Given that Merck is a pharmaceutical company, water sustainability often in the same discussion as risk management and quality control. Merck has an extensive research team who solely work on the effects of pharmaceuticals in water. Risk management and risk mitigation reports on each active components are actively submitted to US EPA as new information is made available. Education and public awareness is also a component of water sustainability. Dr. Buzby mentioned that just a few weeks ago, a business department manager emailed her with a subject titled, “the key problem to expanding our pharm business is water.”

Mary Buzby has a background in wastewater management as well as over 20 years of work experience at Merck. For more information please visit Mary Buzby’s LinkedIn. http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mary-buzby/a/113/67a



About t5huang

Masters in Environmental Science at UPenn Candidate
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