There’s no shortage of reasons why companies should want to place greater emphasis on sustainability. As we see it, there are three main drivers: pressure from legislators, customers and employees; sustainability-related opportunities; and not least the fact that more and more companies feel a moral obligation to do business responsibly.
In the context of healthcare products and production processes, sustainability is primarily about sustainability goals 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 10 (reduced inequality), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action), 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land).
Specifically, it’s first and foremost about the following points:
- reducing waste
- lowering carbon emissions
- using less resources generally
- using more sustainable raw materials (no/fewer conflict minerals, etc.)
- lowering costs (and thus creating a bigger market/greater reach)
Vast amounts of single use packaging is not sustainable
Right now, across our projects in the healthcare sector we find that the main focus for manufacturers is on time and budgets. In 95% of all project enquiries we receive, sustainability is not even considered. Quite the opposite – the trend in hospitals is towards ever more single use packaging, simply because it’s cheaper for manufacturers and hospital operators. This is one area where we believe there is huge potential for the sector to significantly reduce its footprint without compromising in areas such as product safety.
The key here is to analyse sustainability across the product life cycle as a whole. An important point is that this enables the identification of areas where rapid action is required.
In our view, there are four specific approaches, though these can (and should) also be used in combination:
- in-depth analysis of supply chain sustainability
- the use of sustainability engineering to optimise the sustainability of products over the entire product life cycle
- a consistent strategy for recycling/re-using medical devices or hospital equipment
- the development of new business models based on reprocessing or leasing of products, etc.
Step 1 – life cycle assessment
Life cycle assessment is an important step in developing a well-founded sustainability strategy and planning your next steps. By evaluating all of the various phases, from manufacture to end of life, you can identify which areas offer the greatest scope for improvement. In addition, a well designed life cycle assessment enables you to analyse and compare a range of different scenarios. Quantifying the impact of different strategies enables you to work out where best to deploy resources in order to produce the greatest reduction in the environmental impact of your product.