Case Study: Protecting Customers’ Medicine and the Environment

Cigna is committed to creating innovative, value-driven solutions across its home delivery back-end fulfillment sites. In 2019, we identified a feasible solution for greener shipping of temperature-sensitive medications. Our back-end fulfillment site in Florence, New Jersey, participated in an eight-week pilot testing the environmental impact and operational feasibility of a plant-based recyclable cooler [PDF].

Typically, we utilize molded expanded polystyrene (otherwise known as EPS/Styrofoam) coolers in our cold chain.1 The recyclable cooler that we piloted has thermal properties comparable to our regularly used EPS/Styrofoam coolers, and even performed slightly better. Additionally, it is assumed to be made with 90 percent less energy than traditional polystyrene coolers and breaks down naturally at end-of-life.

Over 12,000 coolers were shipped to patients during the pilot, which allowed us to test the efficacy of the product and also somewhat mitigate the negative impacts2 of our EPS/Styrofoam coolers on the environment.

The cooler pilot provided us with meaningful results and a strategy for how we could advance our enterprise’s back-end sustainability efforts and reduce our carbon footprint. Throughout 2020, Express Scripts Pharmacy continued exploration of sustainable cooler alternatives. Moving into 2021, our team will initiate a formal RFP to engage vendors and determine the best product for implementation across the sites. We intend to roll out the recyclable cooler across our back-end sites throughout 2021 and into 2022, with the end goal of eliminating the use of EPS/Styrofoam coolers across our pharmacy sites.

1The term cold chain or cool chain denotes the series of actions and equipment applied to maintain a product within a specified low-temperature range from production to use. A cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain. An unbroken cold chain is an uninterrupted series of refrigerated production, storage, and distribution activities, along with associated equipment and logistics, which maintain a desired low-temperature range. It is used to preserve, extend, and ensure the shelf life of products.

2EPS/Styrofoam products are human carcinogens. Additionally, they take hundreds of years to break down and, because they remain in landfills, the leaching of styrene can also occur, allowing it to seep into the groundwater, thus affecting water quality.