Responsibility for our products is at the core of our corporate responsibility. We therefore strive to minimize the impact our products have on people and the environment during their development, manufacture, and distribution, as well as during and after their use. This includes providing comprehensive information on responsible, safe and proper use of those products. It is, however, also crucial to conserve resources and minimize the generation of emissions and waste.
Through our products, we are helping to overcome global challenges such as climate change and energy scarcity. Our specialty chemicals help our customers save energy. (LCs) provide computer monitors and televisions with high picture quality while also consuming little energy. Our materials for PS-VA (polymer-stabilized vertical alignment) technology help significantly reduce the amount of background lighting needed, which is the largest power consumer in these devices. New potential applications for LCs are smart windows: They let more solar heat inside in winter, less in summer. Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) make it possible to produce energy-efficient displays with brilliant colors and sharp picture quality. In October 2012, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany strengthened its partnership with Epson, a Japanese printer manufacturer. Our common goal is the mass production of large-surface OLED displays. Modern such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are key technologies that will make it possible to decrease the energy consumption of lighting. Our printable structuring materials are enabling the industry to manufacture solar cells in a more environmentally sound way while improving their efficiency.
Displays use 20% less energy* thanks to innovative liquid crystals from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany for PS-VA technology (*in comparison to VA technology).
We strive to continuously enhance the sustainability footprint of our products, developing suitable product and process innovations in order to do so. And we are working to offer our customers products that enable them to reduce the impact of their own activities as well as achieve their own sustainability goals. One example is the program of the Performance Materials division, with which we help customers develop energy-efficient LCDs, OLEDs and LEDs. The concept has been extended to include our portfolio of cosmetic pigments and cosmetic actives; it covers various areas such as the sustainable procurement and production of cosmetic ingredients as well as the optimization of the related production processes. In dialogue with our customers from the cosmetics industry, we also develop proposals for cosmetic formulations that meet strict sustainability criteria and are in line with the current trend toward more natural cosmetics. Several of our products have recently been certified by ECOCERT, an independent organization that represents high international standards for environmentally sustainable products.
Analysis as a prerequisite for improvement
In order to reduce the unwanted effects of our products, we must understand our products across their life cycle, which is why we perform corresponding analyses.
In some cases, we investigate the complete life cycle (“cradle to grave”); in other cases, we focus on parts of the cycle through the “cradle-to-gate” approach, meaning that we analyze the R&D phase of a product up to the point of delivery to the customer. Sometimes we concentrate on particular aspects, such as greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, or packaging. The results of the analyses show us where we have potential for improvement. Our experts from R&D, Product Management, Quality, Procurement, and other units can use these data as a basis to develop specific measures and initiatives across the entire product life cycle; they furthermore engage in an exchange of relevant best practices and ideas. We share the results of our analyses with our customers as well.
We have calculated the product carbon footprint for pearl-luster pigments and liquid crystal mixtures as well as the product water footprint for liquid crystal mixtures using the “crade-to-gate” approach. Our customers utilize these data to calculate footprints for their products. Since our performance materials are only present in the end product in minute amounts, our contribution to the end product's footprint is generally very minor.
In the 2011-2012 period, our life science tools division conducted a life cycle assessment that was reviewed by experts; it also developed a methodology for evaluating various waste disposal solutions and calculated more than 20 carbon footprints for individual products.
Sustainability even at the product development stage
We lay the cornerstone for our products' sustainability during the product development phase. We have implemented various guidelines in order to reduce potentially negative effects, such as our Group-wide “Product Safety Chemicals” Policy. In our Performance Materials division, we adhere to the “Halogen-free Policy” of our customers and have implemented the “Green Product Policy”. Among other things, this forbids the use of acutely toxic, mutagenic, or otherwise severely hazardous substances that remain present in the end product. We furthermore ensure that our products adhere to national and international regulations such as REACH and RoHS, as well as fulfill other industry- and customer-specific requirements.
In addition to this, we have developed systems within the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany that incorporate sustainability criteria into the product development process. In our Performance Materials division, we have introduced a structured analysis of the ecological impact of the products from the business unit Advanced Materials; called the Innosessment, this analysis is conducted during the development stage. In 2011 and 2012, we analyzed more than 100 products with regard to toxicity, the substitution of critical reagents and other aspects.
As part of the Design for Sustainability program, the life science tools division has developed a number of tools to drive sustainability across the product development process. One example is a scorecard which identifies key health and environmental impacts in certain life cycle stages as well as opportunities for improvement. This program is especially aimed at reducing our customers' own environmental impact, including their carbon footprint and water use.
In order to improve resource efficiency, we examine different materials for our product packaging to determine which ones are best suited to the task.
We help our customers avoid generating waste and offer take-back and recycling programs.
Conscientious production processes
Efficient processes make economic sense and are good for the environment. In our operational processes, mandatory standards apply Group-wide to ensure resource conservation and avoid negative environmental impact. In order to reduce greenhouse emissions during the manufacture of our products, we have set a Group-wide climate protection goal and are making good progress toward achieving this goal.