aerial view of winding road

Benefits of sustainability roadmaps

It’s not enough to have sustainability goals—you have to know how to logistically meet them. Zero carbon doesn’t happen by accident or luck, and any company with zero carbon targets within a dedicated time frame needs a sustainability roadmap to achieve these goals.

What is a sustainability roadmap?

Sustainability roadmaps provide the customized timelines, steps, and details needed to keep you on track to achieve your long-term sustainability goals. Sometimes called a sustainability masterplan, your roadmap is your master guidance and planning tool for everything from site-level equipment purchasing decisions to boardroom budget planning. It identifies your starting point in terms of carbon footprint, water use, and waste, then establishes a step-wise, data-informed path to achieve each goal or milestone by a specific date. Providing a long-term strategy, it has a broad scope that takes into account the lifecycle of equipment and the building, regulatory requirements, the resources needed, and the company’s prospects for growth and development. Roadmaps can offer a capital investment strategy, providing a project-based sustainability budget and project sequencing all the way out to your 2030 or 2040 corporate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals.

These roadmaps support long-term sustainability goals, like:

A quick overview: carbon neutral and net zero carbon

Carbon neutral allows you to purchase renewable energy credits (or similar) to offset your fossil fuel use. Net zero carbon removes on-site fossil fuel use through energy efficiency and building electrification, and the facility consumes renewable electricity from on-site and/or offsite resources.

This is a simple overview of carbon neutral versus net zero targets; a more detailed list of sustainability terms can be found here.

Who should be involved when developing a sustainability roadmap?

Collaboration between teams is necessary. Input from the facility manager, technicians, the safety team, and those who operate the building management system is instrumental in creating a successful sustainability roadmap. These are the people who understand what works and what doesn’t within your buildings. Likewise, involvement of the C-suite is important for a number of reasons, not least of which is to champion major CapEx budgets and understand how operational changes fit into the overall business strategy. Executive involvement also demonstrates the importance of sustainability and signals that suggestions for operational improvements are welcome if they help meet sustainability goals. Communication with operational staff helps executives understand the need to dedicate time, resources, and energy to maintain systems to mitigate risk, such as downtime due to a lack of scheduled maintenance.

How can it be used?

Your sustainability roadmap provides perpetual guidance. Use it to:

  • Plan. Use your roadmap for next year’s capital planning efforts. Identify the top priorities for that year and get your funding approved.
  • Do. Use as a guide for writing your RFP requirements.
  • Check. Several ESG reporting organizations require benchmarked utility data to be disclosed, and corporate leadership is often pushing for year-over-year improvements. A sustainability roadmap will include this information for easy reference and use elsewhere.
  • Refine. Make adjustments to your sustainability roadmap on a two or three-year cycle as technology improves and projects are implemented.

Applying a sustainability roadmap to biotech and pharma

With its focus on enhancing healthy communities, the biopharma industry knows that addressing climate change is critical to global well-being. Most large companies have established zero carbon goals and are committing to 3rd party initiatives, like science-based targets (SBTs), to hold the earth’s warming to no more than 1.5 Celsius and require companies to meet zero carbon no later than 2050. Meeting these kinds of targets will take planning, coordination, and foresight, especially when it comes to reducing emissions within existing facilities and operations.

Biopharma companies leverage sustainability roadmaps for guidance when:

  • Optimizing capital spend for equipment replacement
  • Prioritizing next steps for site improvements
  • Reducing ongoing utility costs
  • Maintaining active operations
  • Reducing downtime

While your production focus may shift as new classes of drug products arise—for example, cell and gene therapies, mRNA vaccines, and antibody-drug conjugates—sustainability roadmaps address systems common within building systems or envelopes. Manufacturing facilities include systems that are uniform across industries, such as lighting, HVAC, compressed air, purified water, and steam. A roadmap looks at how to integrate these systems into a new or existing building. In a facility expansion, it also explores how to incorporate additional equipment or processes while maintaining the optimization of existing systems or scaling them in a manner that doesn’t impact sustainability.

What are the benefits of a sustainability roadmap?

Positive impact on CapEx and OpEx

Historically, sustainability measures were viewed as an added expense without an obvious return on investment. These days, sustainability can be integrated strategically and economically. This becomes especially true when the project is guided by a plan developed by an experienced team familiar with the technologies and tools available to you.

  • CapEx savings: Not only are there federal and regional tax incentives that help shoulder the capital cost of sustainable infrastructure, like adding solar panels, but there are also community choice programs and power purchasers’ agreements to help with these investments. The benefit of generating your own on-site clean energy is not just reducing your carbon footprint but also resiliency from grid outages and volatile utility prices, and reduced overall energy costs.
  • OpEx savings: Within operations, we’ve seen dramatic savings when set against the operating costs of a standard code facility, equating to millions of dollars saved per year. Tools like energy models can help you compare equipment replacement options to identify the lowest energy user over its expected useful life. At CRB, we work with our utilities and automation engineers to optimize cooling tower systems, process engineers to optimize cleaning cycles, and warehouse teams to optimize space and materials—all of which contribute to reduced OpEx. 

Site-level benefits

Site management and procurement teams can consult your roadmap to help plan for scheduled end-of-life equipment needs. And when something breaks, an operator can consult your roadmap for guidance to swiftly find replacement equipment that furthers the company’s progress rather than mistakenly sets it back. Providing quick and confident decision-making empowers your site-level team to work within what can sometimes be murky corporate direction.

Sometimes, direction from management can seem conflicting—should your team keep costs low or source low-energy equipment? The roadmap helps here, too, by presenting your team with an easy way to identify priorities or the middle ground.

Sustainable action appeals to customers and investors

Companies are embracing sustainability to maintain market share, connect with consumers, and improve brand reputation. In fact, the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices rate companies based on their steps to reduce climate and environmental impact. So, simply saying you’re “green” is not enough; quantifiable action is needed.

Companies are becoming more transparent, publishing progress on sustainability targets, utility use and annual emissions through 3rd party programs like SBTi and the Climate Disclosure Project. While a sustainability roadmap is not intended to be a public-facing document, it does provide an engineering and implementation plan, ensuring real progress can be made and reported on for your public disclosures.

How do you create a sustainability roadmap?

Years of industry experience have led CRB’s sustainability consultants to develop systems and refine best practices for project success. We use a five-step process when creating sustainability roadmaps for clients:

icon-based sustainability project's roadmap
  1. Confirm goals with a sustainability charrette
  2. Benchmark current performance
  3. Analyze technical solutions
  4. Analyze cost-benefit and financing
  5. Develop a timeline and milestones
green map with cartoon sustainability plan

1. Confirm your goals early with a sustainability charrette

A sustainability charrette establishes the project’s conditions of satisfaction—the key metrics for the project with specific timelines for accomplishing them. Alignment from the outset on these conditions of satisfaction from the client, internally, and with the project team is critical to ensuring a plan’s success. This alignment clarifies:

  • The client’s definition of zero carbon
  • Whether the plan assumes zero on-site combustion or includes plans for biofuels, such as renewable natural gas or hydrotreated vegetable oil
  • Whether natural refrigerants are required or if there’s an acceptable global warming potential
  • Whether zero carbon is limited to normal operations or if backup power needs to be decarbonized as well

Here’s our sustainability charrette template to help you get started.

carbon reduction graph - icon

2. Benchmark current performance

CRB’s sustainability team reviews specific data to establish current performance against the sustainability goals. This includes utility bills, utility trend data, and a site equipment list, which the team uses to assess the current state of performance towards goals. For a zero-carbon roadmap, this also includes a carbon compliance inventory review, which looks at all carbon-contributing equipment, system by system. For a water evaluation, this includes a site or building water balance, identifying and quantifying all users and waste streams.

Depending on the data already available from a client’s enterprise asset management system, CRB uses an equipment lifecycle utilities assessment to incorporate the site equipment lists into an equipment assessment report, with estimated useful life, remaining useful life, and conditions assessments to inform the state of the site and inform capital planning.

analyzing data- icon

3. Analyze technical solutions

Using information on the current state and systems, our team of sustainability consultants work with the client’s key stakeholders to ideate sustainability solutions, informed by the >250-item energy and sustainability solutions matrix. For a zero-carbon roadmap, this will include energy conservation measures and best available technologies for addressing systems contributing to scope 1 carbon emissions and energy use, on-site or local renewable energy, and storage solutions.

list of sustainable equipment for biotech and pharma manufacturing list of sustainable equipment for biotech and pharma manufacturing
ROI of sustainability icon

4. Analyze cost-benefit and financing

Our sustainability team then evaluates by assessment criteria to inform the selected solutions for the roadmap. Criteria of the evaluation may include:

  • Carbon emissions impact
  • Energy impact
  • Water impact
  • Operational expenses
  • Capital expenses
  • Economic viability

The evaluations may also include a choosing by advantage assessment of the best available technology to address a particular path forward. An example is the type of heat pump to include in the central plant, such as air-water, air-water-water, ground source, heat recovery chiller, or some combination thereof.

green project timeline

5. Develop timeline and milestones

Informed by the analyses of the energy and sustainability solution measures, CRB develops a recommended project list and a step-wise implementation approach to meet and exceed the goals by the target year. Our team takes into account shutdown schedules, site resource availability, existing capital plans, and more.

Detailed timelines allow facilities to plan for sustainability projects within existing planned shutdowns and schedule projects around times when existing, energy-intensive equipment needs to be replaced. This includes a plan for when equipment fails, so you’re not replacing it in kind but rather with the best available technology to meet your long-term goals. Alternatively, a recently installed piece of equipment is low on the priority list for replacement, allowing the site to realize its full value before replacing it with a green alternative.

Achieving zero carbon can require significant capital investment to meet the acceleration of zero carbon goals and the immediacy of the global health crisis of climate change. To maximize efficient use of capital funds, the timeline for the roadmap is informed by the equipment assessment so that each recommended project in the roadmap is tied to an implementation schedule determined by the remaining useful life, observed condition, and importance of each piece of existing equipment. With equipment remaining useful life considerations and understanding capital plans already in place for updating equipment, zero carbon plans can be implemented while minimizing the associated marginal cost. Significant expense is incurred when recently installed equipment is replaced to reduce carbon emissions; this makes it critical to ensure all future investments align with zero carbon goals.

Getting started with your roadmap

When it comes to sustainability, many manufacturers don’t always know what questions to ask. This is where we come in. CRB experts can conduct an assessment, provide recommendations, and determine how to implement them. Our extensive experience means we know how to optimize construction processes, energy, and water while decarbonizing. We understand biopharma’s cGMP regulations and energy-intensive activities, such as water for injection (WFI) and clean-in-place (CIP) processes, we’re able to identify low-hanging fruit and the risks associated with greater savings opportunities.

Need help from our sustainability consultants to meet your sustainability goals? Let’s talk.

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