A meaningful contribution to climate action requires a holistic approach. In an interview with Cheryl McClellan, our Corporate Director of Environment, Health and Safety, and Gerd Vollmer, Senior Environmental, Health & Safety Manager, we take a closer look at the company’s environmental goals...
Cheryl, Gerd, how do our business operations affect the environment – and what role do you play in helping reduce their impact?
Cheryl: We are a large science and technology company and our business operations impact the environment – generating greenhouse gas emissions, wastewater, and waste. One key element in our roles at Corporate Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) is to define company-wide standards and requirements on various environmental topics. Then, we must oversee implementation at our global sites and assist wherever possible.
Gerd: Exactly, and as well as this, we also develop ambitious targets together with our business sectors to improve our environmental footprint.
Let’s talk about milestones: What core environmental goals have you set and when – ideally – should they be realized?
Gerd: Currently, we have three environmental goals, focusing on greenhouse gas emissions, water, and waste – the climate and water goals are brand new. We want to be climate neutral in 2040. The water goal aims to improve our water footprint, with regards to water quality and quantity. The target year for our water goal is 2030, and for the waste goal it’s 2025. With the waste goal, we intend to reduce the overall environmental impact of our waste disposal.
Can you give some specific examples of how the company is paving the way to an eco-friendlier future? Does technology play a role?
Cheryl: As the EHS business partner for our Life Science organization, I see many such examples. For instance, Design for Sustainability. This Life Science program provides our product developers with a range of tools that enable them to analyze the impact of a product – regarding materials used, energy and emissions, waste, water, packaging, usability, and innovation. We’ve 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.
Discover how our environmental stewardship program works...
Across locations, each site director is responsible for environmental stewardship as well as occupational health, and safety at operational level.
At larger facilities, site directors receive support and advice from Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) managers.
In 2019, our EHS organization comprised more than 200 EHS managers – backed at local level by additional support staff.
All EHS managers must complete EHStart-up! – a three-day training course held at our global HQ in Darmstadt, Germany.
EHS managers participate in regular e-learning courses and classroom seminars to keep abreast of new requirements/regulations.
Curiosity is about staying open to the perspectives of others. Is this a quality that helps in defining – and achieving – our environmental aspirations?
Gerd: That's right. When defining environmental targets, for instance, you can’t just consider the internal company perspective. You also need to keep an open mind and consider the expectations of external stakeholders, like investors or customers.
Cheryl: And, with our global community of curious minds, achievement of environmental goals comes from many innovative ideas and solutions to improve our ecological footprint.
Do aspects of global protocols (e.g. the UN Paris Agreement) influence our environmental strategy? Is alignment a challenge?
Cheryl: Sure, as a member of global society, we feel obliged to support these kinds of initiatives. This is why we are committed, for instance, to the Code of Responsible Conduct for Business and are also members of the Chemie³ and Responsible Care® initiatives. Plus, we’re also helping to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Gerd: And of course, this influences us indirectly too – via various external stakeholders. The global society expects us to take action, this includes our investors, customers, and the governments of countries where we operate.
A modern science and technology company must strike a balance between market value and environmental value. How are we doing?
Gerd: Let me cite Marcus Kuhnert, our Chief Financial Officer... "As a responsible company, we have, for centuries, been shaped and guided by strong values across the generations, which is why we consider sustainability to be so vital. For us, profitability and sustainable entrepreneurship go hand in hand."
Cheryl: Right, and there is growing importance on this. Even now, we are working on a new sustainability strategy for the company.
How does your job influence the choices you make outside of work? Does increased awareness for environmental issues affect behavior?
Cheryl: Absolutely. I am often concerned about the world left over for my children, their children, and further generations. And, every choice I make (recycle versus trash, letting water run in the sink, leaving lights on in unoccupied rooms) has an impact on the next generation. This awareness really helps in making sustainable life choices.
Gerd: Well, I choose to go for public transportation – even though a commute by train takes much longer than by car. This more sustainable option is even supported financially by the company – offering colleagues so-called Job Tickets.
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