The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said it will continue to focus on its environmental commitments after fulfilling its pledge to completely divest from fossil fuels.

One year on from its declaration of the climate and ecological emergency, earlier this month the RPS announced that it had sold any direct financial investments, such as stocks, bonds, or investment funds, that it had in companies that extract fossil fuels, four months ahead of target.

The RPS is now focusing on its commitments on recycling and waste, energy use, reducing travel and corporate social responsibility.

Elen Jones, RPS country director for Wales, who leads the sustainability project, explained to The Pharmacist that around 40% of RPS investments were already in green portfolios, and the divestment work focused on the remaining 60%.

She added: ‘I'm delighted that it's happened so quickly, to be honest, and now we can get on with the other elements of our commitment.’

Ms Jones also said that a key area for pharmacy sustainability was the impact of medicines on the environment, including on the water system.

‘We want pharmacy to actively work with partners to try and help reduce this, but a lot of it will require infrastructure for us to work within,’ she said. ‘We're working with the ABPI, we're working with Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Water here in Wales to try it and come to some recommendations and some research that we can do to help.’

Ms Jones said that the RPS’ internal work came as a result of setting broader sustainability policy for the sector as a whole.

‘As we were doing this, we started to think: we can't be asking the profession to do more and to think about their impact without looking at us as an organization and thinking about what we do.’

‘We feel confident now that what we're asking of our members and asking of the healthcare profession, we are doing ourselves,’ she added.

‘And now we can use the information that we've gained in helping them do the same thing.’

Ms Jones said that it can be difficult for practitioners to know the environmental impact of medicines. ‘In the same way as we would look at which [medicine] is the most clinically appropriate, we need some guidance to help us choose the most environmentally appropriate one as well.’

She also said that the RPS was working with stakeholders across pharmacy and other disciplines to work together on reducing the environmental impact of medicines, including water pollution, plastic waste and recycling.

Ms Jones added: ‘I think there there's a lot of overlap and I think the more we can do together to make those calls even louder, the better.’

Commenting on the complete divestment from fossil fuels at the time it was announced, RPS President Professor Claire Anderson said that it was ‘an important milestone for us in our efforts to help tackle the climate and ecological emergency’.

However, she added that ‘there’s still plenty to be achieved’ to become a ‘more sustainable organisation’.

In June, the RPS joined with climate change campaigning group Pharmacy Declares to ask pharmacists to sign its climate change charter.

The charter asks any member of the pharmacy team to commit to:

  • Understand how human health and the systems which underpin it are reliant on the state of our natural environment.
  • Actively explore ways to make pharmacy practice and medicine use more sustainable.
  • Collaborate and share best practice to improve sustainability in pharmacy and healthcare.
  • Demonstrate leadership on sustainability or being a champion for sustainability at work.
  • Assist patients to optimise their medicine use to increase both health outcomes sustainability.

It also calls on individuals to commit to a personal action on climate change of their own choosing.