Respect for the environment is at the heart of sustainable conduct. We see it as our duty to not only conserve resources when developing our own products, but to also help our customers increase the sustainability of their products. Our Life Science business sector develops solutions to make research and biotech production simpler, faster and more efficient, while our Performance Materials business sector focuses on solutions for the electronics market, for example semiconductor or display materials.
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 the impact of our products on health and the environment. This applies to the entire life cycle, from manufacture and use to disposal. At the same time, we seek to make our products more efficient and user-friendly. We ask ourselves right at the start of product development how to best reconcile these requirements.
Our Performance Materials business sector develops and produces numerous intelligent materials that help our customers manufacture high-tech products. Many of these materials allow people to save energy in their everyday lives. The avoidance of hazardous materials is a principle that is embedded in the product development process.
How we include sustainability in product design
The Life Science business sector works across its three business units to drive product-related sustainability. This includes our Design for Sustainability (DfS) program for eco-friendlier life science products as well as DOZN™, a web-based tool for assessing greener alternatives.
Our Performance Materials business sector has its own CR Committee. It comprises representatives from all Performance Materials business units and other relevant internal units.
The responsibilities described here also apply to product packaging and recycling.
Integration of Versum Materials and Intermolecular
In October 2019, Merck acquired the two companies Versum Materials and Intermolecular, broadening the Performance Materials product portfolio in the semiconductor solutions field.
In the course of the integration process, we evaluate their activities and then include them in our reporting as of 2020.
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.
Our processes for sustainable product design
Within our Life Science business sector, a strategic platform founded on a transparency-based, data-driven approach helps our experts to drive sustainability improvement during the development of products and packaging. Our Design for Sustainability (DfS) program, a comprehensive approach to increase the sustainability of our products, focuses on three areas:
- Our DfS: Development pillar focuses on embedding sustainability at the beginning of the R&D process.
- Our DfS: Consultancy pillar focuses on working with our customers to solve specific sustainability and/or green chemistry challenges they face.
- Our DfS: Reengineer pillar focuses on our established portfolio of products and on looking at how we can improve the environmental footprint of these products through application of the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry in our process. We then use our proprietary web-based tool DOZN™ to assess the improvements. We have now extended the tool to our customers to aid them in assessing their own products and processes.
Within our Performance Materials business sector, our raw materials for the cosmetics industry meet the high standards of the EU Cosmetics Regulation and are produced in line with Good Manufacturing Practices for Cosmetic Ingredients (EFfCI GMP).
Sustainable product design in the Life Science business sector
Through our DfS program, we have developed a comprehensive approach to increasing the sustainability of Life Science products. The “DfS: Development” 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 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 inform our efforts to improve our products and are incorporated into subsequent development stages. Experts from R&D, Product Management, Quality, Procurement and other departments collaborate along every step of the process. By the end of 2019, 32% of such product development projects had met three or more product sustainability criteria.
In 2019, we successfully developed further our DfS program in order to better account for environmental impacts during the product development process and to improve our communication of sustainability attributes to our customers. We developed new elements of the program, including a scoring system and we initiated a pilot phase during which we test and optimize these elements prior to global implementation.
We also continued to run a product development pilot project with the goal of encouraging our suppliers to participate in the Together for Sustainability (TfS) industry initiative. Ten of our suppliers of consumables took part in the project. More than 85% of product manufacturing costs are attributable to them.
Green chemistry assessment tool
Through our “DfS: Reengineer” initiative, our Life Science researchers are developing innovative solutions in line with the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry developed by chemists Paul T. Anastas and John C. Warner. These aim to make research as environmentally compatible as possible and to minimize negative impacts on human health.
Our proprietary web-based tool DOZN™ enables us to assess sustainable alternatives for various chemicals and to provide transparency to our customers. DOZN™ provides a framework for rating our products in the three stewardship categories “Improved resource use”, “Increased energy efficiency” and “Reduced human and environmental hazards.” The system calculates scores on each substance based on a range of data that includes the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) as well as Material Safety Data Sheet information. To date, we have used this matrix to assess and improve more than 45 products.
In 2019, we introduced a new customer-facing version of DOZN™ 2.0. It allows customers to compare products and/or processes in a secure environment while utilizing the power of our system. DOZN™ 2.0 brings new possibilities of sustainable product design to our customers to make more environmentally friendly choices in their development processes.
More than 830 greener alternatives to conventional products have been made available to date across our platform of solutions.
Responsible use of natural resources
We are committed to implementing the Nagoya Protocol, an international supplementary agreement to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which has been transposed into EU law and was implemented in German law on July 1, 2016. We support the general principles set forth in the CBD, and especially the third objective: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, in accordance with the Nagoya Protocol’s terms and conditions. A key element is access and benefit sharing, which ensures that countries providing genetic resources and knowledge also benefit from their use. The Nagoya Protocol plays a key role in our product development efforts and we apply the agreement’s requirements when using genetic resources originating in countries covered by the protocol.
In 2019, we adopted a Group-wide standard entitled Access to Genetic Resources. Its objective is to define requirements, roles and responsibilities in order to ensure compliance with the Nagoya Protocol under applicable legislation. We carried out comprehensive trainings on the standard across relevant units.
Where appropriate, we ensure that genetic resources and traditional knowledge are obtained with the prior informed consent of the relevant Nagoya Protocol member state. Their use is governed by mutually agreed terms. If applicable, for example when introducing a new product on the market, we disclose appropriate due diligence declarations and keep all associated records as required by relevant legislation.
Each business sector defines specific procedures to help ensure that the requirements set out in the Group-wide standard are met.
Tracking material use
We primarily use chemical and pharmaceutical raw materials for our manufacturing operations, in addition to operating supplies and packaging materials such as folding boxes, glass bottles and ampules. We utilized 434 kilotons of material in 2019 (2018: 488 kilotons). We only record the weight of the materials that are directly used in our pharmaceuticals and chemicals.
Wide range of solutions
Our Life Science portfolio comprises a broad array of products, with different properties that are taken into consideration when applying our DfS approach. The following examples illustrate the results.
Our greener, bio-based solvents utilize non-food, renewable resources, making them more environmentally friendly. Our solvent Cyrene™ is derived from waste cellulose and is used as a more sustainable alternative to substances such as NMP and DMF, which are classified as toxic to reproduction. Through Cyrene™ and other greener solvents, we are helping our customers to make their production processes safer and more environmentally sustainable. Cyrene™ was named “Environmental Product of the Year” at the Environmental Leader Awards 2019.
We expanded our greener solvent portfolio by launching another solvent, Dimethyl Isosorbide, in 2019, with further solvents to be launched until 2022.
Eco-friendly lab water use
Our Milli-Q® IQ 7000 lab water purification and monitoring system uses mercury-free UV oxidation lamps and has a hibernation mode to save energy while still preserving system water quality. Compared to previous versions, we reduced the size of the system by 25% and the size of the purification cartridges it is equipped with by 33%. These measures helped to cut down on the amount of plastic used, on packaging and transportation as well as on waste levels.
Less plastic in cell culture creation
The amount of plastic waste generated by creating cell cultures is high, due to the need for single use, sterile products. We estimate that globally, between all providers of filters, approximately seven million units are used each year just for sterile filtration. This does not include flasks, pipettes and other plastic used. This plastic is a biohazardous waste and cannot be easily recycled.
Under our Design for Sustainability approach, we created a greener version of our current Stericup sterile filtration system, thereby reducing the amount of plastic entering the laboratory and waste stream.
The new Stericup E was designed so that customers can connect the bottle containing the sample to be filtered directly to the Stericup E filtration unit, avoiding the use of a plastic funnel. Depending on the product version, the new Stericup E design can reduce the amount of plastic used by up to 48%. This also reduces the amount and size of plastic and corrugated packaging by up to 73%. The unit of sale is then lighter and smaller, which leads to a reduction of CO2 emissions during transportation. Storing the product at our distribution centers and at customers’ sites requires less space and reduces the volume and cost of waste disposal (including biohazardous waste) for our customers. This new design leads to a reduction of the global warming potential of the product of up to 46% from design to end of life.
Optimizing the ethylene oxide sterilization process
Some of our products are sterilized with ethylene oxide (EO). In 2019, we successfully completed our three-year project to improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impacts of the EO sterilization process for products manufactured at our Life Science site in Molsheim (France). This encompassed 25 of our product families. A multidisciplinary team successfully developed and implemented the new process in line with the ISO 11135 standard on the sterilization of healthcare products. The new process allows us to sterilize different products in the same cycle, resulting in an optimized truck fill rate for transportation from our site to the sterilization partner. The number of trips has thus been reduced by half, enabling us to reduce our emissions by 200 metric tons of CO2eq annually.
Current product examples from the Performance Materials business sector
Our Performance Materials products help boost sustainability in a variety of ways:
Over the past decade, our semiconductor customers have transitioned to using more environmentally sustainable materials in their chip manufacturing, while simultaneously delivering advanced computer chips at lower costs. We have responded to this challenge by developing next-generation products using a minimum of 30% less colloidal silica to save process costs for our customers, while also reducing our freight, packaging and processing costs. We successfully launched a next-generation product that meets these technical and commercial targets. We can therefore reduce the need for ocean containers by approximately 180 units annually. We also optimized the production process, reducing process water consumption by over 14 million gallons (53 million liters) compared to our standard product. The availability of this product in concentrated form means that our customers can also save costs on waste treatment and reduce the number of plastic drums used.
As a result of the acquisition of Versum Materials, we obtained a significantly sized CMP business, in which we aim to explore options for applying the approach outlined above.
The production process for semiconductor devices requires numerous cleaning steps to remove the organic material used to pattern the circuit design. These cleaning methods require complex solvent chemistries that selectively remove organic material without damaging the sensitive electronic components. However, the most effective solvents pose a significant environmental hazard. NMP, a mainstream solvent common in wafer cleaning processes, is highly toxic and, in 2020, will be classified as a restricted chemical under the European Union’s REACH regulation. We are continuously working on developing new cleaning chemistries and already launched new products in 2019. As a result, not only more sustainable solvents, but also more efficient solvents are utilized by our customers. By designing custom solvent systems for our customers’ cleaning applications, hazardous chemistries can be avoided and the volume of material used is reduced, as is waste.
Windows that can be darkened in a matter of seconds are now a reality, thanks to our liquid crystal window (LCW) technology. These darkened windows regulate the heat generated by direct sunlight. The LC material was commercialized under our licrivision® and eyrise® brands. New estimates based on planned customer projects show that this technology can lower the energy consumed by building climate control systems and lighting by up to 10%, thereby replacing conventional shading.
Life cycle approach to benefit our customers
At the manufacturing plants where our effect pigments are produced, we focus on saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions. This is especially relevant for customers who want to reduce their upstream supply chain CO2 footprint. In 2019, we achieved a 11% overall CO2 reduction for plants producing pigments for our Surface Solutions portfolio compared with 2018.
Shifting to more natural-based cosmetics
Consumers are increasingly scrutinizing brands and companies for environmental and social aspects. Responding to this trend and the ever-growing popularity of natural cosmetics, we are working closely with our customers in the cosmetics industry to find solutions for more natural-based cosmetics. The resulting cosmetic formulations comply with strict criteria and, by the end of 2019, 73 of our cosmetic pigments and active ingredients had been certified to Ecocert’s COSMOS standard for organic and natural cosmetics. We have also obtained halal certificates for over 50% of this product portfolio, including broad parts of the pigments portfolio, our Eusolex T and UV-Titan product ranges. Our aim is to develop more natural-based raw materials for use in cosmetics in the future.
Alternatives to microplastics in cosmetics
Functional fillers play a crucial role when it comes to the look, feel and quality of cosmetics. For example, beauty products containing effective functional fillers are easier to apply, wear well and help mask imperfections or skin discolorations.
Microplastics are often used in cosmetics and functional fillers. However, they are highly resistant to environmental biodegradation, fragment into ever smaller pieces and do not dissolve in water. Wastewater treatment plants are able to filter out only 90% of microplastics.
We offer effective and scientifically proven alternatives to microplastics. Our RonaFlair® portfolio of functional fillers offers environmentally friendly mineral ingredients that deliver a variety of cosmetic properties.
Chemical Mechanical Planarization is a process of smoothing surfaces through chemical and mechanical forces.