NEW YORK--Faced with an R&D pipeline that is drying up, findings from a new study suggest that the healthcare industry should look to sustainability as a new force for innovation.

The report, ‘Healthcare Marketing in the Age of Sustainability’, is a joint effort by OgilvyEarth and Ogilvy PR, and is the result of in-depth interviews with a number of healthcare executives and sustainability experts.

It finds that while healthcare companies have made strides in terms of reducing carbon emissions and water use, there is considerable opportunity to develop new products and delivery systems that will help society adapt to changing climate, population and disease patterns.

The report’s authors - Ogilvy PR Brussels MD Jeff Chertack, and Ogilvy PR North America healthcare head Monique da Silva - believe that this represents a bottom-line opportunity, in a year when 10 drugs contributing to $50bn in sales will face patent expiration.

"As global environmental pressures grow, so will the impacts on human health. And so will the demand for health care companies to help prevent and treat diseases and illnesses in which the environment is a causal or contributing factor,” said Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. “It has never been more apparent that our health is connected to the health of the planet. Health care companies should look to these emerging environmental pressures as the new or expanding frontiers for their industry.”

Eight areas are identified as representing specific sustainability opportunities. For example, the report points to the “intersection of social and business opportunity’, through efforts to address intractable issues in countries around the world. An example is Abbott’s initiative to train community physicians in China on diabetes prevention an treatment, and pediatric nutrition.

In addition the report also finds that healthcare companies should use customer feedback to rethink the sustainability and efficiency of existing products. To read an exclusive op-ed on the conclusions, click here.