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Celebrating sustainability in pharmaceuticals

Caireen Hargreaves (Chemical Engineering 1994) was named in June as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering: Sustainability by the Women’s Engineering Society, in recognition of her outstanding work towards the effective environmental management of pharmaceuticals.

As Associate Director of Product Sustainability at AstraZeneca, Caireen is responsible for striving to address the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals all the way along the production and consumption chains.

Caireen said: “AstraZeneca’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact is truly inspiring, in particular, our programme to be zero carbon by 2025 and carbon negative across our value chain by 2030.” The UN Sustainable Development Goals are at the forefront of her work, including Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG12) and Climate Action (SDG13).

Caireen Hargreaves


While she has worked for AstraZeneca for the twenty years since she graduated from Cambridge, Caireen says her passion for sustainability really came alive when she spent four years working in Sweden.

She explained: “Scandinavian countries are really progressive in terms of their way of life, public transport, and funding for environmental protection initiatives, but also in terms of policy and regulation.

"In the pharmaceutical sector in Sweden, prescribing doctors have access to the environmental properties of the medicines they are prescribing. I think that is still unique globally, but more and more we are seeing environmental improvement initiatives emerge in healthcare systems: for example, in the UK the Greener NHS campaign to tackle climate ‘health emergency’ was launched earlier this year to reduce carbon emissions including those from medicines prescribed.”

Indeed, Caireen sees environmental sustainability as a shared responsibility for the public and private sectors. She said: “As a company, it’s about protecting our business for the future so we can continue to deliver life-changing medicines to patients. The younger generation are going to insist on sustainable products and medicines and increasingly people want to work for companies that have values in line with their own. Businesses really are coalescing to drive change.”

And what advice would Caireen have for students at Fitz today? Caireen said: “My message to my younger self would be to take part. Even if you’re not studying a scientific subject, I urge you to get involved with sustainability – human behavioural insights and policy direction from arts and humanities students are important too!”

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