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Sustainability in R&D

Our Director of Sustainability, Till Langner, and Senior Sustainability Program Manager, Kristin Balk, talked about the Sustainability program “Umbrella Project” and what impact it has on our company...

At our company, we understand that Research and Development plays a key role in creating sustainable solutions. Hence, a systemic approach to unite sustainability activities under one umbrella was established. We caught up with Till Langner, our Director of Sustainability, Science & Technology Relations and Kristin Balk, Senior Sustainability Program Manager to find out more…  

Till, Kristin, Research and Development (R&D) is the be-all and end-all of our business. How can it be optimized to help us achieve our sustainability goals?

Till: As a science and technology company, new discoveries and sustainable solutions are key drivers for our success and contribute to solve some of the biggest challenges of our time. Our scientists use their innovation power to help us accomplish our sustainability goals faster, but also those of our patients, customers, and society.

Kristin: Exactly, R&D plays an essential role and influences our future product portfolio. Decisions made in R&D have an impact on the whole value chain, including material purchase selection, production conditions, product use & end-of life. That’s why the Design for Sustainability frameworks of the business sectors take those and other important aspects into account. With the Umbrella project, we want to make their contribution more visible.


What is the Umbrella project and how does it relate to the Design for Sustainability activities?

Till: The Umbrella project is a cross-functional and cross-sectoral team effort. It was launched to harmonize and unite reporting on sustainability in R&D under one umbrella. It aims to increase transparency on sustainability performance in R&D across the company. Therefore, we jointly developed a Corporate Dashboard.

Kristin: That is right. We aligned on common core sustainability evaluation criteria with the Design for Sustainability scorecards across the business sectors. With the Corporate Dashboard, we make the contribution of R&D to the sustainability strategy goals more tangible.

Our company’s portfolio and processes are diverse. How do you capture this in the Corporate Dashboard?

Kristin: Every business sector has its own specific requirements and challenges regarding sustainability. This is covered in the business sector specific Design for Sustainability frameworks. For example, R&D projects in Healthcare incorporate clinical trial excellence that is not relevant for Electronics or Life Science. However, there are common core criteria across all business sectors such as human progress or emissions that are harmonized and captured in the Corporate Dashboard.

What benefits do you see in promoting increased transparency across a global company like ours?

Till: Transparency is one of the most important factors to jointly reach sustainability goals, especially in a global and diversified company like ours. It allows us to collect pivotal information and creates visibility as well as accountability. Transparency facilitates analyzing areas of improvement as well as the impact of our changes in the future. It helps to make the collected data actionable and will advance portfolio steering. Furthermore, transparency improves communication and the relationship with both internal and external stakeholders- and shareholders.

At our company, we always talk about collaboration. So, one last question, what role does collaboration play in this project?

Kristin: Sustainability does not work in silos. That’s why collaboration plays an essential role. The Umbrella project aims to leverage synergies through best-practices and knowledge sharing. This includes concepts or insights into processes that help us to save resources and to accelerate our progress. Together, we aim to reach our full potential in creating a more sustainable R&D portfolio across the business sectors for our patients, our customers, and society.

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