By Martin Madaus, Ph.D.
If a giant discount retail chain like Wal-Mart can become a sustainability leader through effective supply chain management, then it stands to reason that companies in the life sciences sector should be going green, as well. After all, the life sciences mission, at its core, is to protect and enhance life. As life science leaders, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to serve as examples and to demonstrate that sound environmental management is not just the right thing to do — it’s good business.
It’s not too soon to seize this opportunity, because the green revolution has taken root and is spreading fast. Going green — operating in an environmentally sustainable way and offering products and services with verifiable green credentials — is no longer a fringe movement reserved for boutique consumer products such as organic foods or hybrid vehicles. It is rapidly becoming an imperative for most businesses, driven by societal and demographic shifts felt worldwide.
For the generation now entering the workforce, living sustainably is a fundamental value. Young people are asking employers challenging questions: Why do we discard so much plastic in this laboratory? How much energy does this process consume? Why is this product wrapped in so much packaging material? How is our business affecting climate change? Do I work for an ethical company?
Tomorrow’s life science leaders want to work for employers who can answer these questions — or who are at least wrestling with them. In order to attract, retain, and motivate top talent, today’s leaders must demonstrate a commitment to sound environmental management.
But it’s not just employees who are asking the tough questions. A growing number of socially conscious investors, or their representatives, are scrutinizing firms’ sustainability records and reputations before committing their funds. The Carbon Disclosure Project, which collects and publicizes carbon risk and opportunity data from 2,500 companies, represents $64 trillion of investment from 534 institutional investors. The results are instantly visible on Bloomberg terminals to those making purchasing decisions. And many customers are taking a second look at what their suppliers and vendors are doing to protect the environment. The trend is clear: A long-term sustainability strategy is becoming increasingly important to our key constituencies — employees, shareholders, and customers — and therefore is increasingly critical to our long-term competitiveness.
Steps Toward Sustainability
Developing and implementing a sustainability strategy can be daunting. However, there are some relatively simple, immediate steps that any business can take that will benefit not only the environment, but the bottom line, as well.
Basic energy-efficiency measures are a great way to start. By installing new lighting systems, replacing gas-guzzling company vehicles with hybrids, and updating inefficient compressed-air systems, a business can save money, reduce costs, and see a payback in less than a year.
A less tangible but equally important benefit is increased employee engagement. Once a companywide sustainability initiative is established, employees become proactive and innovative in their approaches to environmentally sustainable business practices.
Now is the time for those of us in the life sciences industry to determine where we fall on the sustainability spectrum and, wherever we fall, to take steps to improve our position. Such action can only boost our prospects for long-term growth and profitability, for the reasons stated above. But more important, by making a choice to go green, or greener, we can connect our profit motive with a greater sense of purpose. Through sound environmental management, we can help fulfill our core life sciences mission: to protect and enhance life, and ultimately, to leave the world a better place for future generations.
Martin Madaus, chairman, president, and CEO of Millipore Corporation, has been with the company since 2005. Since then, he has completed several strategic acquisitions, expanded its core capabilities, nearly doubled its annual revenues, expanded its global operations, and improved its profitability. Before he joined Millipore, Dr. Madaus worked for Roche Diagnostics, serving as president and CEO and head of North American Operations (2000-2004).