CRO Supports the Environment

May 14, 2008

Applied Clinical Trials

ProTrials goes green.

Words like “footprint” and “hybrid” don’t actually roll often from the mouths of the clinical trial professional. But for employees and management at Mountain View, CA-based CRO ProTrials, this lingo is second-hand and generated from within.

The company was certified in 2007 as a Green Business under the Santa Clara County, CA, Green Business Program. That program requires participants to comply with its regulations and meet program standards in resource conservation, pollution prevention, and waste reduction.

“Our industry is paper-intensive,” said ProTrials co-founder and president, Inger Arum. “And because of travel requirements in our industry, fuel consumption is virtually unavoidable. We can’t eliminate these factors, but when we have to make a decision we want to keep the environment in mind.” To that end, its newsletter includes a “Green Ideas” section which informs employees about the airlines that work to reduce their footprint on the environment, as well as car rental companies that offer hybrids (of which, Arum drives), and hotels that are environmentally sensitive.

In addition, ProTrials encourages a paper-free environment. For example, in meetings employees are encouraged to use projectors. It recently instituted technology in the finance and accounting area to create a 100% paper-free environment for invoices and similar documents, and the company also uses electronic data capture (EDC) technology. “We are working with employees to find out how little paper we can generate,” said Arum. “And we keep an eye out for technology and ideas that will help us reduce our footprint.”

Arum drives a hybrid and both she and chief executive officer Jodi Andrews-also a co-founder-carpool to work. Telecommuting is encouraged, as is flex-time, where commuting in the San Francisco Bay Area can be congested, pollution producing, and difficult.

Arum credits her workforce for initiating the green efforts. “The work force in the Bay Area is sensitive to the environment and said, ‘We’d like to do this.’” ProTrials employs about 75 full-time employees and was founded by Arum and Andrews. Being a women-owned company with no debt, growing gradually over its 12 years, has offered the company a degree of flexibility maybe not available to other CROs. Arum also says that it keeps work-life balance in mind for its employees. “We try to balance work and personal lives in an industry where this can be very difficult. We deliver and we can still be sane about it,” said Arum. “The employees and clients are equally important.”

But has being green made a difference its clients or potential clients? “We have these social aspects and perspectives integrated in our company, but what is most important to our clients is that we deliver what we say we will. Are we giving them the people we say we will? Are we being honest and speaking with integrity? And I think that because we continually do what we say we will do, that’s important to our clients,” said Arum. Keeping her employees excited about work and happy helps her clients’ bottom line because ProTrials has very little turnover. “I think we’re fun to work with.”

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