The Importance and Challenge of "Greener" Products Impacting Consumer Markets

By: Jeffrey Whitford, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Life Science Business

With a growing population, leading to increased consumption and more data available to provide insight into what goes into consumer products, the topic of being “green” in the life science and chemicals space is more important now than ever.  Customers are demanding products that have a smaller footprint and we must meet those demands.

To address this challenge we are working in three key areas; improved manufacturing processes, environmental footprint data and product portfolio expansion.

As one of the leading life science and technology companies, our manufacturing capability provides us with the ability to look at how we manufacture our products and make changes.  We also have the ability to deploy our own scientists to review our processes and to identify new ways we can produce the same products with a smaller footprint.

This process is called Design for Sustainability: Reengineering (DfS: Reengineering).  With nine Centers of Green Chemistry Excellence around the world, and more than forty scientists researching and developing new methods for production and manufacturing our products, we’re able to reduce the environmental impact of our products by engineering new solutions.

One of the many products we’ve reengineered is Beta-Amylase, an enzyme from sweet potatoes.  Two of our own scientists discovered a way to make the Beta-Amylase manufacturing process greener by eliminating the need for organic solvent and using an aqueous based process, while also using only one third of the sweet potatoes and still delivering the same amount of finished product at an even higher purity.

The work doesn’t stop there.  When we surveyed our customers to understand how they interpreted what “green” means to them, product data and why a product is considered greener was at the top of the list. Quantifying the impact of the changes we’ve made is key to providing the necessary transparency to build trust with our customers around our commitment to greener alternative products.

Our industries first quantitative green chemistry analysis system, DOZN™, was created to provide a new level of product transparency. The system, built using the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, has an algorithm for each of the principles that are then aggregated to create a final DOZN score.  The system uses GHS information, including material safety data sheet details, and the manufacturing protocol to provide the data needed to create the score. The system has been validated by a third party to confirm the scientific approach met the intended outcome.

Another aspect of data transparency is providing additional information on why a product is considered greener, such as third party published papers. This external validation of our approach provides an enhanced level of transparency by showing use cases of practical applications of greener research. Protocols are often a key tool used to demonstrate efficacy thus providing other researchers and scientists with a roadmap.

The final area is the product portfolio challenge and ensuring researchers have the right tools to accomplish their goals.  In the context of greener chemistry, the challenge becomes more dynamic due to the varied outcomes or purposes a single chemical can have. Therefore, expanding the greener alternative products we bring to market is key. We focus on the needs of our customers and try to forecast what they may want before they realize it.  We partner with some of the leading academic institutions in the world, working on small scale green chemistry innovations, to bring these new ideas out of concept and into commercialization.  We also partner with small scale start-ups, developing niche products meant for specific markets, using ideas based on experiences within those target markets.

We look to product portfolios that have high usage in the industry, such as solvents.  One of our new products, Cyrene, is an example of the transformational potential we hope to bring to researchers.  Cyrene was developed by The University of York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and Circa Group.  This bio-based solvent is proving promising as a potential replacement for DMF and NMP in certain applications.  As the regulatory environment continues to change, finding replacements that have a smaller environmental and hazard footprint becomes paramount to enabling researchers to keep pace with new requirements.

The move to natural, organic, greener solutions is one that continues to gain momentum. Without a wide range of effective solutions, and the data to back those solutions, building trust with our customers is impossible leaving a great deal of untapped differentiation and value on the table.