Sigma-Aldrich continues to evolve our environmental sustainability approach. We began with water, energy, emissions, waste, product, transportation and shipping operations and supply chain management. Now, our broader focus also includes the effects our operations have on biodiversity, animal welfare and more.
To continue improving in these areas, we are seeking out more data and applying the findings to our facilities around the world. For example, a partnership with EnTech USB helps us translate our utility bills into greenhouse gas values, which we can use to improve energy efficiency. Our efforts also include more detailed reporting on our water footprints, energy footprints and carbon footprints; engaging stakeholders to find partners who can help us create mutually beneficial, sustainable solutions; and designing additional assessments to better understand the scope and scale of the effects of our global operations.
While maintaining a strong work ethic and focus on efficiency, our employees remain our ambassadors of global citizenship and environmental stewardship. Via our invaluable Green Teams, resourceful Sigma-Aldrich employees are expressing our passion for sustainability through community service. They're also changing day-to-day habits and practices within our offices to help create a more sustainable tomorrow.
Our chemical and biochemical products start with basic building blocks, which must be obtained from our trusted suppliers all over the world. Time-tested relationships have fostered an environment of open communication, yet there is always room for improvement.
With a countless number of potential disruptions to our global supply chain, we have worked to create risk mitigation plans for our top 250 products. Those plans were completed at the end of 2009, and we continue to monitor and adjust our plans as needed.
In 2011, we implemented a sourcing and contracting module that allows our Global Procurement team to collaborate with our end users and all of our internal departments, including our Legal department. This streamlines the procurement process, increases internal communication and shortens the lead time to vendors.
In the interest of diversifying and supporting businesses that align with our values, we put a special emphasis on spending with special category vendors, including small businesses (13% of total spending), women-owned businesses (2.3%) and minority-owned businesses (~1%)
We also look at reducing the amount of material stored in inventory. Our data stream identified a significant reduction opportunity in our packaging supplies category. By updating and managing certain data points, we’ve been able to more accurately predict inventory requirements and increase contracts — a more stable business stream. But the cost-effectiveness didn’t stop there. This helped our vendors produce the materials we need, and still turn over their inventory up to six times per year.
To make certain our suppliers meet or exceed our expectations in the delivery of products and services, we have implemented metrics to track quality and on-time performance, while continuing to clearly communicate our expectations regarding safety compliance and employee welfare. On-site audits under a comprehensive supplier qualification program help us to ensure product quality, continuity of supply and acceptable manufacturing practices at suppliers located in all the corners of the globe.
Over the past few years, we have increased our commitment to enhanced transparency surrounding the environmental practices of our suppliers. GC1015 includes a component for reaching out in stages to all of our suppliers with a set of sustainability protocols. We initially focused on our top 100 suppliers, and we are on track to reach our Top 200 by 2015.
Year after year, we are seeking ways to streamline delivery while also reducing our environmental impact. Targeting our packaging, shipping and recycling efforts provides substantial opportunities to make our supply chain greener.
Ocean freight emits substantially less carbon dioxide than air freight, and the emissions occur at sea level, where they are less destructive. In 2010, we began shipping most slower-moving freight by sea, analyzing inventory daily across the globe, and only shipping small amounts of product by air freight as needed — all of this without slowing delivery or negatively affecting our customers. We greatly improved this system in 2011 and will continue expanding it in 2012 as we switch more than 200 tons of product from air to ocean shipments, reducing our CO2 emissions by 888 tons. Also in 2012, we will reduce the total transit time from 30 to 15 days by optimizing our ocean freight routes, which will increase our potential freight volume, save on inventory and help us provide the best service to our customers.
Our Dual Packaging model, which keeps products nearer to their final destination from manufacture to distribution, has helped us further reduce air freight, in turn lowering costs and CO2 emissions. Another cost- and waste-reducing packaging strategy is our Virtual Boxing initiative, where a global information system predetermines what products and quantities can ship together. In 2011, more than 50,000 shipping boxes were removed from the shipping stream — an 11% reduction over 2010.
Through our EquipNet service, increased communication among our manufacturing facilities allows us to efficiently manage and reuse machinery. Last year, we moved 18 pieces of major equipment to different locations in our network, instead of purchasing new items. In addition to the immediate cost savings (which totaled more than $375,000 in 2011), this also heightened internal awareness of resource usage and set the foundation for reusing and recycling other existing assets.
By starting with specific steps, our Green Teams spark action in much larger groups and help us all contribute to a greener future. Green Teams in offices and break rooms from Singapore to Australia to St. Louis are reflecting, brainstorming and initiating global change.
In Singapore, a Green Team set out on a group nature excursion with a focus on team-building and greater environmental awareness. Green Teams in Australia have taken actions that lead to renewed respect for the environment and more sustainable workplaces. One Australian office recently began using recyclable paper packing material instead of polystyrene, which goes into landfills and won’t degrade for hundreds of years.
Meanwhile, another polystyrene product was a point of focus halfway across the globe. The 60-member (and growing) St. Louis Green Team began 2011 with a resolution to move away from polystyrene cups in break rooms, and convince employees to drink from reusable containers at work. This seemingly specific and small goal turned out to be quite impactful. Approximately 675,000 polystyrene cups were used annually in our St. Louis offices. For Employee Appreciation Day, the Green Team gave employees a reusable beverage container and informed them about the initiative. Despite old habits and some work environments still requiring disposable cups for sanitary purposes, polystyrene cup usage in St. Louis has decreased by more than 25%.
The St. Louis Green Team also implemented single stream recycling at all Sigma-Aldrich sites in the area. Trash cans were replaced with recycle bins, both in common areas and in employees’ offices. Since the conversion to single stream, we’ve recycled more than nine tons of materials that would have otherwise gone into a landfill. Regular communication about this effort helps employees understand how they’re making a difference.
In 2011, Sigma-Aldrich participated in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge. While the challenge was geared to smaller businesses, it proved to be a valuable opportunity for Sigma-Aldrich to network and share ideas with other local companies. One of the biggest takeaways was the breadth of what other local companies are doing — we learned about several projects and policies we could implement ourselves. Sigma-Aldrich will be participating in the Challenge again in 2012.
Several years ago, the engineering team in Arklow, Ireland, conducted extensive audits for an energy management project. Using their findings, they began to implement projects that reduce resource usage by increasing building efficiency. The team first conducted surveys of the facility’s heating, heat conservation and ventilation systems in the administration and laboratory areas, then looked into replacing them with high-efficiency systems.
But the team wasn’t satisfied with simply replacing those older systems. Significant design and survey work has also been completed on other potential projects that will be delivered by 2012, including:
By thinking outside of traditional boundaries and involving the site’s entire team, engineers were able to bring new projects to life, far beyond what was originally planned.
The cyclopamine production process at our facility in Arklow, Ireland, generates about 200,000 liters of aqueous waste every year. In 2011, the Arklow team set out to reduce the cost of waste disposal by 25%. However, the waste included a large amount of sediment, so it couldn’t be sent to a traditional waste water treatment plant. This also ruled out flocking. Centrifugation would not work because the required centrifuge was too large and too expensive.
The Arklow team finally found a solution with a sludge treatment plant (SOVI), which separates the aqueous waste into three parts: oil, sediment and water. The oil is reused as fuel; the sediment is incinerated; and the water goes on to be purified. This solution lowered costs by 39% and now provides recycled resources that would not be available through traditional disposal.
The team also noticed that the containers used to transport the aqueous waste were new. They determined that used containers would work just as well, since they were ultimately incinerated anyway. This lowered direct costs another 16% and further reduced the environmental impact.
Overall, these improvements will save the site about $84,000 annually, significantly exceeding their cost reduction goal.
The 1,3,5-Tris(4-Iodophenyl)benzene project was identified as a strong candidate for reengineering because the product had a history of low yields, and used hazardous pollutants to synthesis its components. The new synthetic route is greener, cost effective and easier to handle, and drastically increases the yield from 8% to 88%. The reengineered product can now be made in a 250 mL reaction flask, compared to the 20 L flask needed for the old process, which means the reaction volume has been reduced by 98%. Previously, repeated purifications were required to achieve just 90% purity by HPLC. The new process avoids purification altogether: Recrystallization from organic solvents delivers an already pure product (93% by HPLC).
Greener alternatives are not only safer to produce and handle, but they also work towards our efforts to reduce waste. In addition to reducing overall waste to just 311g, the new 1,3,5-Tris(4-Iodophenyl)benzene process reduced hazardous waste generation by 98%. Disposal of highly hazardous waste, such as iodine, periodic acid and acetic acid, is no longer necessary. Furthermore, the new process is more time- and energy-efficient, with a 62.5% reduction in batch cycle time and an 85% reduction in power consumption during the manufacturing process.
In the previous process of developing (S)-(−)-3-Chloro-1-phenyl-1-propanol, it took more than 100 L of organic solvents and 7500g of DIP-Chloride™ to synthesize just 949g of product. This solvent usage has been reduced by 84%, now only requiring 19 L for the same yield. What’s more, DIP-Chloride™ is highly moisture sensitive and corrosive, so removing this element from the process creates an automatic improvement in safety — the new catalytic process uses the far less volatile 0.1 equivalent (Catalytic qty) of (R)-(+)-2-Methyl-CBS-oxazaborolidine, versus the former 1.1 equivalent of DIP-Chloride™.
Previously made in three steps, 2-Methyl Benzofuran used to require distillation and recrystallization with very high amounts of solvent and energy usage. The product also had a history of low yields and used hazardous pollutants, making a greener alternative much more appealing. During the reformulation process, we found a way to use water as a solvent, which greatly reduced the use and output of iodine, acetic anhydride, bromine and sodium hydroxide. The reengineered product can now be made in just two stages; with the more energy-efficient process, the reaction cycle time has been reduced from 20+ days to 6 days or less. While the yield has already increased significantly (from 12% to 65%), further testing is still in the works to increase yields up to 80-85%.
Dimethyl-2,6-dibromoheptanedioate was identified for study because of a very long cycle time and inconsistent yields — in fact, it produced ZERO yields on three separate occasions. Even though the reactants and substrate from the previous process are still used, the simple switch to catalytic iodine produces greater than 99% pure material. In the old method, crude material was isolated at every step, and each step required a different reaction setup. In the new process, because of the catalysis, the environments for the necessary reactions naturally occur more quickly (50% reduction in reaction time) with no need to manually set them up or introduce a solvent. This has three significant benefits: a reduction in the waste generated, elimination of labor hours spent on isolation and purification, and an increased yield from 50% yield to 94.3% isolated yield.
Increasing our Greener Alternatives sales is not enough to sustain a greater movement toward environmentally responsible chemistry. We know we need to offer our customers more information on how each chemical represents a greener choice. Our Greener Alternative Matrix, currently in development, will provide our customers with unprecedented transparency about the manufacture of these chemicals, and detailed information to back up our “green” assertions. With the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as our basis, we strive to shed light on this information to improve the results of our own efforts, as well as for the benefit of our customers in their research.
Using readily available manufacturing and safety data, the Greener Alternative Matrix generates a product’s individual score for each of the 12 principles, as well as its overall score. To ensure the accuracy of our methodology, an outside third party is auditing the system with a representative selection of our products, so we can make any necessary adjustments before we release the data to our customers. Once all of our Greener Alternative Products have been scored (projected date: end of 2013), we will publish the information on the Sigma-Aldrich website. Having access to a simple and effective methodology will give researchers everywhere a better understanding of environmentally conscious options.
The Greener Alternative Matrix will not only be applied to our Greener Alternative product line. We plan to integrate fully automated scoring into our manufacturing procedures, so, as we develop and modify the way we make our products, we’ll have a clear, reliable standard for efficiency and sustainability
We are also dedicated to upholding the highest standard of care and welfare for the animals, an objective that is realized through external oversight and adherence to all regulations set forth by the U.S. Public Health Service.
SAGE Labs now has the power to breed animals with unprecedented gene alterations to help inform the future of gene therapy, utilizing proprietary CompoZr™ Zinc Finger Nuclease (ZFN) technology. We are also perpetually expanding our capabilities to remain on the leading edge of genetically modified rat and mouse models that are fine-tuned for the most efficient and informative studies. Independently monitored by a committee consisting of scientists, veterinarians and community members, our scientists remain in full compliance with the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare policies. We also actively implement the three Rs whenever appropriate — replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in experimentation.
Instead of creating large quantities of printed brochures and reports to send out automatically, we now provide them only upon customer request. This enables us to provide the most up-to-date information, and saves paper, ink and other costs. We have also moved toward digital publications and downloadable files in place of hard copies.
The recent life cycle analysis (LCA) of the Sigma-Aldrich Life Sciences catalog was another major step toward reducing the environmental costs of our business and increasing transparency. This large-scale catalog is sent to customers around the world and uses a significant amount of resources. Looking at emissions from gathering raw materials, assembly, distribution and waste disposal, the LCA determined the total carbon impact of producing one edition of the catalog.
The LCA concluded that the 2010 Life Sciences catalog produced nearly 6.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) over its life cycle. For the production of all 2010 catalogs, the net emissions were approximately 3,260 metric tons CO2e.
|LIFE CYCLE STAGE||METRIC TONS OF CO2E|
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The total emissions associated with each life stage of producing all 2010 catalogs.
The Life Cycle Assessment helped to create a baseline for understanding how we can further reduce the impact of the catalog. In the future, we can use this life cycle data to target specific carbon reductions, such as changing how we produce the catalog’s raw materials or assemble the catalog; apply these changes to other catalogs; and use the outcome of these changes to guide further improvements.