SPONSORED CONTENT: By Jeffrey Whitford, Head of Global Corporate Responsibility and Life Science Branding, Merck
As a life science company, we embed sustainability in everything we do. Scientific progress and responsible entrepreneurship go hand in hand, enabling us to create a sustainable future.
We‘ve set ambitious corporate goals: in 2030, we will achieve human progress for more than one billion people through sustainable science and technology; by 2030, we’ll integrate sustainability into all our value chains; and by 2040, we’ll achieve climate neutrality and reduce our resource consumption.
Our approach to sustainability focuses on the three areas: employee and community engagement, sustainable operations, and greener products and solutions.We are committed to accelerating access to health for people everywhere, while sparking curiosity in the next generation of scientists through employee and community engagement.
We accomplish this with philanthropic investments in the areas of scientific research and science education. Simultaneously, we harness employees’ talents and expertise, allowing them to give back to their communities through the SPARK™ initiative, our global skills-based volunteer program. Additionally, we turn scientific inquisitiveness into action with Curiosity Labs™ program and the Curiosity Cube® mobile science lab, our flagship initiatives that bring hands-on science lessons to students worldwide.
We offer customers 1,100-plus greener alternatives to help reduce the environmental impact of their work, while ensuring results are not compromised
The Life Science business of Merck, which operates as MilliporeSigma in the U.S. and Canada, is a global organization with more than 300,000 products and 23,000 employees across more than 60 countries. Leveraging an integrated 360-degree global environmental management system for our facilities, we built KPIs related to emissions, energy consumption, water usage and waste generation to help us reach the next level of sustainable operations. In 2020, we achieved a 36% absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from our 2006 baseline; produced 1,527,000 kWh on-site renewable energy; recycled 29,300 tons of waste through waste management practices for a 58% recycling rate; and reused or recycled 512,000 cubic meters of water.
To bring greener products and solutions to market, we actively integrate a focus on sustainability throughout the product life cycle—from design and manufacturing to packaging, distribution, product use and end of life/recycling—so our products offer the highest performance in innovation, quality, safety and effectiveness.
Our Design for Sustainability (DfS) approach puts sustainability at the forefront of each stage of the product life cycle as we develop, engineer and re-engineer products to minimize environmental and health impact—and simultaneously improve product performance.
Using the DfS process during the development phase, we created Stericup®E and Steritop®E filtration systems, greener alternatives to standard sterile filtration systems. The new products were designed to connect the standard media bottles directly onto the filter unit, avoiding use of a plastic funnel. This innovative design can reduce the amount of plastic used by around 48% and the amount and size of plastic and corrugated packaging by around 73%. The item is lighter and smaller, reducing CO2 emissions during transport. This requires less space for storage, while reducing cost of waste disposal for customers. Taking the entire life cycle into consideration, this can reduce global warming potential of the product by up to 46%. We also utilize DfS to share our expertise with customers, collaborating on applying green chemistry design thinking to their research and operations.
To re-engineer existing products, we leverage strengths in innovation and the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry. These principles guide us toward uncovering innovative solutions to big questions—like making chemicals, processes or products greener, thereby reducing environmental or human health risks and increasing energy efficiency.
We also created an industry-first framework—DOZN™ initiative—which evaluates different products and processes against the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.
Through DfS, re-engineering and 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, we offer customers 1,100-plus greener alternatives to help reduce the environmental impact of their work, while ensuring results are not compromised. One example is the Cyrene™ solvent, a revolutionary alternative to two fossil-fuel-derived solvents typically used in plastics, fibers and adhesives. Safer, greener and bio-based, Cyrene™ has a lower carbon footprint. The ReSolute consortium, which Merck is a part of, was awarded to €12 million build a new Cyrene™ solvent production facility in Europe by the EU research and innovation program Horizon 2020 due to commercial potential. As part of the project, Merck is now developing new applications for the Cyrene™ solvent.
Product packaging is one of the most visible and tangible environmental impacts for customers, which is why we developed the SMASH Packaging Plan, an industry-first framework to drive packaging sustainability improvement. We’re working to reduce the amount of material we use, while also employing more eco-friendly materials. For instance, by optimizing the shipping properties of our ZooMAb® antibodies, we’ll be able to prevent the emission of around 164 metric tons of CO2 per year by 2025.
We faced the challenge of increasing plastic disposable product use by working with customers and the waste management industry to develop a first-of-its-kind single-stream recycling program. Our U.S.-based programs can recycle almost 100% of these plastics with the added benefit of traceability. Single-use product waste—like bioreactor bags, assemblies, filters, protective clothing, gloves and empty drums—even when classified as biohazardous, can be recycled through a first-of-its-kind Biopharma Recycling Program. To date, we’ve recycled almost 6,000 tons of waste through the Biopharma Recycling Program, turning these used items into industrial-grade plastic lumber products.
We see it as our responsibility to shape a sustainable future through our products and technologies—enabling our customers to increase their sustainability, and helping all to find solutions for tomorrow’s world.
Merck CO2 emissions SMASH packaging plan