Symbion Pharmacy Services’ Definition of Responsibility

Test tubes in clinic, pharmacy and medical research laboratory with male scientist using pipette

A ‘symbion’ is an organism in a symbiotic (i.e. mutually beneficial) relationship with another one. In the case of Australia’s giant Symbion Pharmacy Services, this means supplying and delivering over-counter Chemmart medicines to more than 3,000 hospital and retail pharmacies, while remaining mindful of its carbon footprint.

In 1999, the company with the tagline ‘life matters’ and a desire to be seen as ‘a good corporate citizen’ decided it was time to measure exactly what it was pumping out from 12 facilities and over 200 vehicles. This was a voluntary decision as even now there is still no carbon emissions law in Australia (although no doubt being a ‘first mover’ will put the company in a competitive position when this inevitably comes).

Symbion decided to install emission detection devices and connect these to a central monitoring system with the intention of managing what these measured. There were two stages to this process. First, Symbion determined its reporting requirements based on one of its larger warehouses. Following that, it established a carbon footprint for each of its wholly owned and managed facilities. This put it in a position to:

  • Analyse total emissions down to a level of detail where it understood the contribution of each source
  • Use big data management tools to identify carbon hotspots for priority remedial action
  • Inform the affected workforce, explain the monitoring system and keep them in the loop
  • Separately manage energy abatement programs such as lighting and delivery routes

The program also had productivity spin-offs in that it focused management attention on the processes behind the emissions that were ripe for material and system improvements. It also provided marketing leverage. Symbion’s customers are in the wellness business, ahead of the curve when it comes to how emissions contribute to chronic illness, and aware of the cost of this in terms of human capital.

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