We believe it is our duty to not only conserve resources when developing our products, but also to help our customers increase the sustainability of theirs. Packaging protects our products from external influences and ensures they reach our customers undamaged. Therefore, we are optimizing the size, weight and recyclability of our packaging while keeping our products safe and secure.
Our approach to sustainable product design
Our individual business sectors take different approaches to sustainable product design.
In our Life Science business sector, we aim to reduce adverse impacts of our products on health and the environment. This applies to the entire life cycle, from manufacture and use to end of life. At the same time, we seek to make our products more efficient and user-friendly, asking ourselves from the start of product development how to best reconcile these requirements.
Through our Design for Sustainability (DfS) framework, we follow a comprehensive approach to increasing the sustainability of our Life Science products. The “DfS: Development” pillar provides our product developers with a range of tools that enable them to analyze product impacts in terms of materials used, energy and emissions, water, packaging, usability, innovation, circular economy as well as supplier- and manufacturing-related issues. We have developed sustainability criteria that can be used to rank a product’s performance in each of these areas. When developing a new product, our aim is to improve on as many of these criteria scores as possible.
To understand the potential environmental impacts throughout the product life cycle, we conduct streamlined product life cycle analyses. The findings from these analyses help us to improve our products and are incorporated into subsequent development stages. Experts from Research and Development (R&D), Product Management, Quality, Procurement, and other departments collaborate along every step of the process.
In 2021, we piloted a new version of our “DfS: Development” pillar across various projects and prepared for its official implementation into our product development process, which will begin in 2022. The framework comprises additional criteria and a scorecard system that helps our development teams address and minimize any negative product- and supply chain-related factors and enables us to improve our communication of product sustainability credentials to our customers.
In our Healthcare business sector, we aim to reduce any adverse impacts our medicines may have on the environment during their development, manufacture, transportation, use, and disposal. We are developing an overarching strategy to make our medicines, our medical devices and their packaging more ecologically sustainable and user-friendly.
At the same time, we are working on advancing environmental compatibility in different phases of the healthcare value chain. For example, in the field of pharmaceutical research, we are working on a project to identify chemical synthesis routes for new drug substances that consume less resources than conventional solutions. In the area of pharmaceutical development, we have defined an ecotoxicological testing strategy that involves identifying environmental properties of drug candidates early in development. Ideally, we can then use this knowledge to avoid emissions into the air and water.
In our Electronics business sector, we aim to reduce any adverse environmental impacts our products may have during their manufacture, packaging, transportation, use, and disposal.
We view sustainability as a competitive advantage, and we proactively engage in partnerships with our customers to collectively drive more sustainable value creation.
We have complemented our product development process with the principle that it should avoid highly hazardous materials wherever possible. Therefore, we have also prioritized new green and innovative materials that deliver sustainable value to our customers. We are committed to a holistic approach in which we strive to ensure our products are:
- Sourced responsibly: We use our membership in the Responsible Minerals Initiative to support the responsible sourcing of minerals, such as tantalum, tin, tungsten, gold, and cobalt, so that these supply chains make positive contributions to global, social and economic development.
- Supplied and used in a manner that minimizes safety and environmental risks: As new products progress through their development cycles, their product sustainability requirements also evolve, including the identification of any physical, health or environmental hazards. We also define the practices for managing these hazards so that our products can be used safely and have a minimal ecological impact.
- Contributing to the sustainability goals of our customers: We seek to establish partnerships with our customers so that we can best understand how our activities and products can contribute to their sustainability goals.
- Reviewed to determine if more effective greener chemistry alternatives are available: Within this development cycle, a multi-functional team is working to establish a process that increases the emphasis on sustainability and green chemistry aspects.
In 2021, we launched a project to integrate the assessment of ESG criteria into our R&D portfolio management.
Our approaches to sustainable packaging
We aim to deliver our products in packaging that is safe and easy for customers to handle, while also working to make it as sustainable as possible.
With more than 300,000 products in our Life Science portfolio – ranging from biochemicals and lab chemicals to filter materials and systems as well as instruments – we face a variety of challenges when it comes to packaging. We strive to improve the sustainability of this packaging to help us and our customers to reduce the environmental impact. Our SMASH Packaging strategy for Life Science is built upon three pillars: optimizing resources, using more sustainable materials and designing for a circular economy. We have set four goals that support these pillars:
- Shrink: reduce amount of packaging
- Secure: achieve zero deforestation
- Switch: improve plastic sustainability
- Save: maximize recycling
Based on these goals, we defined targets up to the end of 2022, which address the development of new product packaging and the improvement of existing product and distribution packaging.
New product packaging is where we can achieve the greatest impact. Our approach consists of implementing new standards and guidelines that development teams can apply to create more sustainable packaging. Going forward, we will assess the sustainability characteristics of new product packaging based on our Design for Sustainability scorecard, which was redesigned in 2020.
When introducing new packaging, we use a process that includes a safety review, evaluating package specifications and sizes, shipment frequency, route, carriers, emergency response capabilities, and elements of safety in the supply chain. All product containers undergo a review for chemical compatibility, purity, leak-tightness, and regulatory compliance. The presence of specific hazards and specific container sizes can necessitate a more detailed risk assessment. A packaging reduction and sustainability project for the thin films business offers new opportunities to advance our future sustainability goals. Furthermore, in our specialty gas and thin films businesses, for example, we focus on product packaging that performs well in terms of transportation and handling safety.
Roles and responsibilities
The Life Science business sector works across its business units to drive holistic sustainability of operations, products and culture. Our structure helps us to implement an ambitious and coordinated sustainability strategy to formalize our processes, governance and goals – helping to embed the strategy into our business and becoming a sustainability multiplier for our customers.
Our sustainability governance structures are as follows:
The Sustainability and Social Business Innovation team within Life Science coordinates the setting of targets as well as monitoring and reporting activities in accordance with our sustainability strategy. This dedicated sustainability team is integrated into and engaged with the business units and their functions. Its role is to reflect and realize business-related activities. We are also creating targeted working groups within the business units that are responsible for aligning their work in accordance with the Life Science sustainability strategy.
Our Healthcare business sector has integrated sustainability across its R&D and operating units. The implementation of its sustainability strategy is steered by the Healthcare Executive Committee. Any decisions made regarding sustainability objectives are cascaded to the corresponding units, which are responsible for implementing measures to achieve these objectives.
In 2020, we started the process of structuring the sustainability governance of our Electronics business sector. This structure helps us to implement a coordinated sustainability strategy across the business units, manage goals and processes, strengthen our customer relations, and ensure overall accountability within our ESG approaches.
Our sustainability governance structures are as follows:
A new organizational structure within Electronics ensures that our sustainability strategy is being implemented within this business sector. The Electronics Sustainability Council plays a key role as a cross-functional executive committee that oversees and signs off on relevant initiatives within Electronics sustainability programs. A dedicated team coordinates business-related sustainability activities. It includes a monitoring role and drives initiatives that contribute to the scope and targets of our sustainability strategy. Furthermore, dedicated working groups within the business units are responsible for developing individual targets for the business units and implementing corresponding projects.
Our commitment: Chemicals and product policies
In order to meet the product safety regulations relevant to our company, our Regulatory Affairs Group Policy details Group-wide processes for managing and implementing product safety, including the necessary management structures.
Within our Life Science business sector, our strategic platform is founded on a data-driven approach to help our experts drive sustainability improvement during the development of products and packaging. Our Design for Sustainability (DfS) framework is a comprehensive approach aimed at increasing the sustainability of our products, focusing on three areas:
- Our DfS: Development pillar focuses on embedding sustainability at the beginning of the R&D process.
- Our DfS: Consulting pillar focuses on working with our customers to solve specific sustainability and/or Green Chemistry challenges they face.
- Our DfS: Re-Engineering pillar focuses on our established portfolio of products and evaluating how we can quantify and improve the environmental footprint of these products by applying the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry in our process. As of December 2021, more than 1,400 Greener Alternative Products had been made available on our platform.
Within our Healthcare business sector, chemical product safety is a key sustainability aspect when developing, producing and distributing products. We comply with all relevant legal requirements regarding chemicals regulations, hazard communication and local and regional chemical registration activities.
Our Group-wide policy also incorporates legal norms concerning the transport of hazardous chemicals, biocides, cosmetic ingredients, and products used in food and animal feed. Our Group Label Standard provides a consistent framework for labeling products according to GHS requirements.
More information can be found under Chemical product safety.
Product safety is one of our highest priorities. Starting at the development stage, we investigate the potential adverse impacts chemical substances may have. We meet all statutory requirements along the entire value chain for our chemicals, with our Regulatory Affairs organization ensuring regulatory compliance.
Within our Surface Solutions business unit, our raw materials for the cosmetics industry meet the strict standards of the EU Cosmetics Regulation and are produced in line with Good Manufacturing Practices for Cosmetic Ingredients (EFfCI GMP).
Adhering to the Convention on Biological Diversity
We support the general principles laid out in the Convention on Biological Diversity, especially the third objective: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Nagoya Protocol. This is an international supplementary agreement to the CBD. A key element of this principle is access and benefit-sharing, which ensures that countries providing genetic resources and traditional knowledge also benefit from their use.
We employ a Group-wide standard entitled Access to Genetic Resources. Its objective is to define requirements, roles and responsibilities to ensure compliance with the Nagoya Protocol under applicable national legislation. We conduct comprehensive training on this standard across relevant units. In addition, each business sector defines specific procedures to help ensure they meet the requirements of our Group-wide standard.
In 2021, we continued our internal exchange within the Group to ensure cross-business alignment and to deliver ongoing training. These initiatives keep the relevant units informed of any changes to access and benefit-sharing.
Wide range of solutions
Life Science: Green chemistry assessment tool
Our proprietary, web-based tool, DOZN™, enables us to evaluate various products and/or processes to identify opportunities for sustainability improvements and provide transparency to our customers. DOZN™ industrializes the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, a previously theoretical framework, and rates our products in three stewardship categories of “Improved resource use”, “Increased energy efficiency”, and “Reduced human and environmental hazards”. DOZN™ 2.0 is the tool’s external interface, allowing our customers and other scientists to make more ecologically sustainable choices in their development processes.
In 2021, we established partnerships with universities in Canada, France, India, Switzerland, and the United States to apply the DOZN™ tool in both virtual and in-lab chemistry curricula. Using DOZN™ in an academic setting yields many benefits. Firstly, it increases the overall accessibility and tangibility of Green Chemistry and its principles. Secondly, it provides a practical opportunity to calculate scores for chemical products and processes and further reinforce learning while highlighting the importance of sustainability in the minds of future scientists.
Life Science: Greener solvents
Switching to bio-based solvents helps our customers reduce their carbon footprint - for example, trough our alternative, more environmentally compatible solvent Cyrene™. We are a member of the EU Horizon 2020 project, ReSolute, which started the construction of a new Cyrene™ production facility in 2021. Located in France, the site will help us meet the growing demand for greener solvents.
In 2021, we introduced a large selection of bio-based laboratory chemicals through the USDA BioPreferred® program. These chemicals are certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine and forestry materials and to provide an alternative to conventional petroleum-derived products. Such products include sustainable solvents like bio-renewable acetone.
Life Science: Sustainable laboratory water use
Our Milli-Q® IQ 7000, IQ 7003, and IQ 7010 ultrapure and pure water purification systems use innovative, mercury-free UV oxidation lamps. Thanks to optimized components and processes, and a hibernation mode, they reduce electricity consumption by 22% to 35% compared with previous systems while preserving system water quality. The systems also reduce water consumption between 7% and 13%. Our innovative IQnano® ion-exchange media has reduced plastic consumption by 33% in the purification cartridges for the Milli-Q® IQ7000 and IQ7003 systems.
Life Science: Less plastic in cell culture creation
Our greener alternative to our Stericup® sterile filtration system, the Stericup® E, allows our customers to connect the bottle containing the sample being filtered directly to the Stericup® E filtration unit, thus avoiding the use of a plastic funnel. Depending on the product version, the Stericup® E can reduce the amount of plastic used by up to 48% and the volume and weight of plastic and corrugated packaging by up to 69%. The unit of sale is then lighter and smaller, which leads to a reduction of CO2 emissions during transportation. It also takes less space to store the product at our distribution centers or at customers’ facilities, while further reducing the volume and cost of waste disposal (including biohazardous waste) for our customers. Taking the entire life cycle into consideration, this approach can reduce the global warming potential of the sterile filtration unit by up to 46%. Across all product versions since their launch, we have prevented 1.9 metric tons of plastic and corrugated cardboard from entering our customers’ laboratories.
Life Science: Expanding product recycling
We continue to expand our biopharma recycling program, where we collect product waste from research labs and biopharmaceutical manufacturing operations and recycle it into plastic lumber. This material can be used in many industries, such as landscaping, transportation and marine construction. The program now serves 16 major biopharma manufacturing customers and since its launch in 2015, has recycled more than 6,700 metric tons of plastic waste, which has reduced emission of CO2eq by approximately 4,400 metric tons.
We are continuing to expand this program throughout the United States, while exploring new options and recycling technologies in other regions, such as Europe and Asia. By assessing advanced recycling technologies and collaborating across multiple industries we will develop innovative circular economy programs.
Electronics: Sustainability in product design
In 2021 we started to systematically incorporate sustainability into our portfolio management process.
In one project, for example, sustainability criteria are developed and incorporated into the product development process from the outset. All ESG-relevant aspects of our materials and solutions will be identified and taken into account at each and every stage.The collection and evaluation of research, development and manufacturing metrics and their application within an ESG context are also in focus as they provide facts and information that can be used for the sustainable design of new manufacturing processes.
Electronics: Colloidal silica
Over the past decade, our semiconductor materials customers have increased their efforts to use more environmentally sustainable materials in their chip manufacturing and improve the performance of their computer chips while lowering costs. We have responded to this challenge by developing next-generation colloidal silica products using at least 30% less colloidal silica. This advancement reduces the volume of product needed, which in turn shrinks our environmental footprint. Customer feedback on the products is promising. Together, we are working to improve production efficiencies and reduce the use of colloidal silica even further.
Electronics: NMP-free removers
The production process for semiconductor devices requires numerous cleaning steps to remove the photoresists used to pattern the circuit design. These cleaning methods require complex solvent chemistries that selectively remove these photoresists without damaging the sensitive electronic components.
However, the most effective solvents pose a significant environmental hazard. For example, NMP, a mainstream solvent common in wafer cleaning processes, is highly toxic and is classified as an SVHC (Substance of Very High Concern) under the European Union’s REACH regulation. Therefore, we are continuously working to develop new cleaning chemistries. We are launching a series of green cleaning solvents that are TMAH- and DMSO-free while still being effective in removing thick photoresist (both liquid and dry) film plus AZ Remover 910 and Dynastrip 5008, Dynastrip 8889 and Dynastrip 8070T.
Electronics: PFAS replacement program
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) feature unique chemical properties and are widely used in our daily lives. However, there is strong evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. Therefore, over the last decade, international regulations have started focusing on PFAS as chemicals of concern. They have become known as “forever chemicals” due to their extremely long lifespans.
Chemical products containing PFAS are essential in today’s electronics manufacturing processes. Therefore, PFAS pose a serious dilemma for the electronics industry as emerging global regulations trend towards restricting the use of PFAS in the future.
We are committed to intensifying our R&D efforts to actively drive a PFAS-related substance replacement program. As a trusted partner in the electronics industry, we are working closely with our customers and providing information throughout this process.
Electronics: Dynamic liquid crystal glazing
Liquid crystal dynamic window glazing adjusts its tint level within seconds according to the weather conditions. The self-darkening glazing regulates glare and solar heat gain effectively without blocking the view. As a result, it increases the occupants’ visual and thermal comfort while simultaneously lowering air conditioning and lighting energy consumption by up to 10% compared with conventional shading. We offer these products under the eyrise® brand. A Sustainable Business Value study found building occupants have higher productivity and take less sick leave where eyrise® products are installed.
Electronics: Shifting to more natural cosmetic ingredients
We are working closely with our partners in the cosmetics industry to find solutions for more naturally based cosmetic ingredients. The resulting cosmetic formulations comply with strict criteria. At the end of 2021, 77 of our cosmetic pigments and active ingredients had been confirmed to comply with Ecocert’s COSMOS standard for organic and natural cosmetics. We have also obtained halal certificates for all our cosmetic ingredients.
Electronics: Vegan cosmetic products
A growing number of consumers view the use of non-animal and non-animal derived ingredients, vegan and plant-based raw materials as a critical product attribute. Therefore, more than 90% of our cosmetic raw materials, including our special effect pigments and functional fillers, contain no components of animal origin, by-products or derivatives, and are thus suitable for vegan cosmetics.
Making product packaging more sustainable: Life Science
Within the scope of our SMASH Packaging sustainable packaging strategy, we are pursuing a number of projects for the Life Science business sector:
How product design affects packaging: ZooMAb®
Most traditional antibody products need to be shipped at temperatures between 2 °C and 8 °C, using specific insulated shipping containers with wet ice bricks. This results in high packaging material consumption and transport emissions. Our ZooMAb® antibodies were developed as a freeze-dried product, giving them improved storage stability and allowing them to be shipped at ambient temperatures. This makes it possible to eliminate the use of expanded polystyrene (EPS) coolers and ice bricks, resulting in significant packaging weight reductions for product shipments. In 2021, it allowed us to avoid the emissions of 9 metric tons of CO2eq.
Shrink: How we minimize the amount of packaging
We seek eco-friendly alternatives for shipping our products safely, which is why we have partnered with a biotech company and jointly developed a more sustainable bulk packaging design for the transport of our Millistak+® Pod Disposable Depth Filters. A life cycle assessment showed that we achieved a 24% reduction in the corrugated cardboard used, which translates to a 17% decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions throughout the life cycle of the packaging materials. In 2021, we saved around 12 metric tons of corrugated cardboard, and our customers now spend 70% less time opening and disposing of the packaging.
In 2021, we launched new bulk packaging designs for a subset of our Durapore® and Millipore Express® filter cartridges. Dedicated to high-volume clients, these solutions deliver both environmental and economic benefits to our customers compared with traditional individual or multipack packaging. As an example, changing from 3-pack to new bulk packaging for our 10” filter cartridges reduce the amount of corrugated cardboard by 55%. This translates to a 49% decrease in GHG emissions throughout the life cycle of these packaging materials. In addition, our customers spend approximately 50% less time unpacking, providing additional economic savings.
In 2021, we also initiated a pilot project to eliminate the use of transparent plastic envelopes that store packing slips on the outside of shipping boxes. While this seems like only a small change, it can deliver significant environmental and operational savings, from the plastic envelope itself to the time needed to attach it to the box. Our estimates suggest that once we implement this practice globally, eliminating these plastic envelopes could save 20 metric tons of plastic waste and over 80 metric tons of CO2eq per year.
Secure: How we are moving towards zero deforestation
A large proportion of our packaging consists of fiber derived from wood. As part of our SMASH Packaging strategy, we have set the goal of ensuring none of our wood or fiber-based packaging materials contribute to deforestation.
We assess the practices of our suppliers and the characteristics of our packaging annually in order to measure our progress towards our zero deforestation ambitions. This also enables us to identify opportunities to increase the volume of recycled material and the percentage of packaging we use with sustainable forestry certifications, which are awarded in line with sustainability standards developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
In 2021, we collected information from our strategic suppliers who represent about 85% of our fiber-based packaging materials spending. Overall, by volume, around 80% of corrugated packaging supplied by these companies is certified by at least one of the three sustainable forestry standards or is made of recycled material.
Switch: How we substitute plastics
In the past, we used insulated containers made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) for the shipment of our chemicals in glass bottles and our temperature-controlled products. While EPS offers good insulation and cushioning properties, it is a petroleum-based material that takes hundreds of years to decompose. As the options for recycling EPS are limited, it is generally incinerated or sent to landfill. Our goal is to reduce our use of EPS by 20% by end of 2022.
Wherever possible, we are replacing EPS with molded components made of cellulose and recycled paper pulp. Our molded pulp components can be easily recycled with other paper materials and compacted together for storage and transport. We use molded pulp inserts to pack a variety of liter bottle configurations in shipping boxes, thereby replacing around three million EPS parts per year.
In 2020, we began implementing an alternative cooler at one of our distribution centers in the United States to replace EPS in our cold-chain shipments. The Greener Cooler is made from renewable resources and is certified recyclable with corrugated materials. While the results of the pilot implementation were positive, in 2021 we re-analyzed the characteristics and requirements of the various insulated shipping containers used in our main U.S. sites to define a comprehensive validation plan.
Aqueous solutions are usually supplied in plastic bottles. We use Titripac® because it offers an ecologically sustainable alternative. The cardboard carton and plastic liner with an integrated withdrawal tap have made the packaging lighter and more recyclable. Since the withdrawal tap protects the product against contamination, customers can now use the entire contents and reduce chemical waste. In 2021, our products sold in Titripac® 10L packaging configurations avoided non-renewable packaging materials by 15.5 metric tons, resulting in a reduction of 73 metric tons of CO2eq emissions across the life cycle of the packaging compared with 1L plastic bottles.
Save: How we maximize recycling of packaging
Many of our Life Science products need to be kept cool during shipping and are therefore packaged in special EPS boxes. To mitigate waste, we offer our customers in the United States the option of returning these boxes to us, and if they are still fully functional, we reuse them. In 2021, this amounted to approximately 9,000 boxes that were reused at least once, making it possible to save 2 metric tons of EPS.
Making product packaging more sustainable: Healthcare
We are in the process of developing a sustainable packaging strategy for our Healthcare business. The solutions we offer will ensure the safe and secure delivery of products to our customers while decreasing the environmental footprint of our packaging.
Slim packaging solutions
In 2021, we launched new slim packaging for Pergoveris®, Gonal-f® and Ovidrel® fertility pens, which is smaller in size and free of single-use plastics. With this new packaging, we have reduced the environmental footprint of these products by using fewer raw materials and reducing transport volumes. We project this new packaging can reduce transport-related emissions by approximately one third, or the equivalent of 360 metric tons of CO2eq (WTW) per year.
Additionally, in 2021, we initiated several studies to investigate the reduction of packaging materials and develop reuse options for medical devices.
Making product packaging more sustainable: Electronics
Our Electronics business sector uses a variety of packaging types, each tailored to the specific needs of the individual business fields and with its own unique sustainability characteristics.
Packaging for our specialty gas and thin films products is designed to be reused. Reusable packaging types include various sizes of cylinders and tube trailers for bulk specialty gases, along with smaller stainless steel and quartz containers for thin films. Once our customers have used the product within the container, the used containers are returned to our production facility for cleaning, refurbishment and refilling. This cycle greatly reduces the number of containers to be disposed of. It reduces the demand for construction of new containers and the associated resource requirements, thus moving us closer to a circular economy.
For large quantities of products in our planarization business, we use totes for packaging. Totes are typically made of high-density polyethylene. One of our main tote suppliers has a recycling program in place that our customers can also use. Each tote from this supplier has a return ticket attached to it, and the supplier picks up the used tote so that its parts can be reused or recycled.
Redesign packaging labeling approach
Plastic packaging generates almost half of the world’s plastic waste. With Iriotec® 8000 pigments, we enable inkless printing with contact-free and durable laser marking technology, making it possible to label plastics which can be traced and recycled more easily afterwards and restores value to the used plastic packaging.
The laser marking provides a unique identifier and serves as a “digital product passport” as the link between product and database. It can replace ink and labels, thus enabling even better recyclability. Laser marking is a unique, sustainable, reliable, durable, and economic way to achieve an individual mark for any plastic product and can be used for plastic packaging, automotive components, cables, or electronic devices.