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Designing in Sustainability in Science

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With a reliance on single-use plastics, significant waste and high energy usage, the carbon footprint of the biopharma industry is large. If we are to accelerate the path to net zero, it is therefore critical to ensure sustainability in science. This sustainability will need to be driven by the policies, processes and collaborations in the industry.

Over the last 15 months, Cytiva, a global provider of technologies and services that advance and accelerate the development and manufacture of therapeutics, has been working to design sustainability into all parts of the new production introduction process. The team’s efforts resulted in the company becoming EcoVadis Gold rated and ISO 140001 Globally Certified.

To learn more about Cytiva’s approach to sustainability and the impact of sustainability initiatives on product development, we spoke to Emmanuel Abate, vice president Genomics and Cellular Research and head of Sustainability at Cytiva.

Ash Board (AB): Can you start by telling us about the role of sustainability and circularity at Cytiva?

Emmanuel Abate (EA):
Sustainability is business critical for Cytiva. It helps us deliver on our mission to advance and accelerate therapeutics and create a business for the long term. In 2021 we formalized our commitment by launching “Designing in Sustainability’”, our plan to make a tangible impact on people and the planet and to build the foundation for a resilient company. The report has ambitions to 2030 and targets to 2025. We are also a signatory of the United Nations’ Global Compact.

AB: What are the key areas of focus and what targets have you set?

Our plan to design-in sustainability is aligned to three pillars – people, planet and foundation.

The “People” pillar is about making a positive impact on the health of societies and fostering greater diversity in our sector. As a life sciences company, we’re proud to have been involved in most COVID-19 vaccine programs – estimated at 400 projects to date. In 2022, we’ll continue with our partnership with BSCP (Biomedical Science Careers Program) to help under-represented students explore careers in our sector through internships, mentorship, scholarship and programmatic support.

When it comes to the planet, we have multiple targets across four areas of impact: reducing carbon footprint, rethinking packaging, evolving plastic and using water responsibly. For example, in 2025 we want 100% of our sites to be exclusively powered by renewable electricity. By then we also want 50% of secondary packaging used for shipping to be reusable or widely acceptable for recycling. Through these actions and others – such as moving from air to sea freight for non-time-critical shipments – we are looking to significantly reduce our absolute CO2 emissions (Scope 1 and 2).

At the foundation, we must have the processes, priorities and relationships across the entire value chain to shape a resilient company we can pass on to the next generation. Detail of our targets are outlined in our 2021 sustainability report.

AB: How do the sustainability initiatives impact new product development? Do compromises have to be made that impact quality of the final product

Sustainability must be part of how we design new products and how we manage them throughout their lifespan. In 2021 we redesigned our “New Product Introduction” framework to encourage critical thinking across the whole process – from sourcing raw materials through to disposal. Everyone takes responsibility to think more sustainably from product management to engineering. Quality continues to be the highest priority for Cytiva, so any sustainability initiatives or design changes must continue to meet those high standards.

AB: Cytiva has committed to recycling 500,000 syringe filters in 2021. How have you gone about this and what challenges have you faced?

EA: Syringe filters are used by our customers in a variety of settings, from healthcare pharmacies to monitoring air pollution levels. They account for 15% of the plastics we sell by weight. This made it a good place to look at recycling options.

The main challenge has been working with lab materials – they are notoriously difficult to recycle as you need to separate several components. We worked with international recycling leader, TerraCycle, to help us collect used filters and turn them into something new.

In 2021, we expanded our US program and welcomed our sister operating company, Pall Life Sciences, into the effort. We expect to reach the target and recycle 500,000 filters in early 2022 when we’ll also expand the program to our customers in Canada, Australia and in several countries across Europe.

AB: Cytiva has remanufactured over 1,000 instruments. Can you tell us more about your circular model?

While we are not fully circular today, that’s certainly how we’re thinking. We are looking to reduce, reuse and recycle more across the value chain of our products and processes. Our work with Seeding Labs provides remanufactured equipment at cost-effective prices to academic institutions around the world. From Cameroon and India to Peru and the Ukraine, equipment has been distributed to researchers at 19 universities in 10 countries. This extends the product life while advancing global science.

This is just one initiative to become more circular. We’ve also introduced “remote factory acceptance tests” which allow customers to install systems by connecting virtually with the team, offering significant CO2 and cost savings. Not to mention we have an established active service and repair program on all equipment to keep it in circulation for as long as possible.

AB: Are you seeing sustainability as a bigger concern for your customers? How are you working together to support this?

Yes! Cytiva was only created in 2020, and we prioritized sustainability right away. In the Sustainability team, we have representation from every function, every area of our business. Our customers are eager to collaborate on this topic, as it is truly a shared purpose, uniting our customers and associates alike. We need to work together to solve the complex problems faced in our sector to improve our impacts on people, planet, and in our foundation.

For example, in 2020 we announced a strategic collaboration with global pharmaceutical company, Roche. Together we are looking to identify smart and science-based solutions for waste management. By sharing two-way insights between customer and supplier, we can find a more circular approach, stay ahead of environmental standards and regulations, and be better placed to scale.

AB: Which areas do you think still have room for future sustainability improvements and innovations?

There are many. Single-use plastics, Scope 3 emissions (including raw materials and supply chain), packaging, and sustainable design all offer opportunity for improvement. These are all highly complex issues on their own, but the nature of our industry makes these even more challenging to address. To overcome will take a combination of innovative ideas, cross-industry collaboration as well as a commitment to execution.

The progress to date at Cytiva encourages me. In 2021 we converted 40% of our sites to run only on renewable energy. We established “net zero” building practices for all new and renovated facilities. Finally, we became EcoVadis Gold rated, ISO 140001 Globally Certified, putting us in the top 5% of companies rated on their sustainability commitments. These are just some highlights, but it proves that we are on the right track.

Emmanuel Abate was speaking to Dr. Ash Board, Editorial Director at Technology Networks.