Respect for the environment and natural resources is at the heart of sustainable conduct. As a major actor in numerous sectors, we see it as our duty to not only conserve resources in developing our own products, but also to help our customers increase the sustainability of theirs. For instance, our Performance Materials business sector manufactures liquid crystals that make displays more energy efficient, while our Life Science business sector develops technologies and solutions to make research and biotech production simpler, faster and more successful. Here too, we take sustainability into account right from the earliest stages of product development.
Our approach to sustainable product design
Due to the different contributions of our individual business sectors to sustainability, sustainable product design is approached differently by each respective sector.
Performance Materials develops and produces numerous products that in turn help our customers manufacture sustainable and environmentally compatible goods. Our aim is to develop smart products that allow people to save energy in everyday life.
In our Life Science business sector, we particularly endeavor to reduce the impacts of our products on health and the environment. This applies to their entire lifecycle, from manufacture and use to disposal. At the same time, we seek to make our products more efficient and user-friendly, asking ourselves right at the start of product development how to best reconcile these requirements.
How we include sustainability in product design
In Performance Materials, we have established the Performance Materials CR Committee with representatives from all four business units and other relevant internal stakeholders. The committee functions as a platform to discuss corporate responsibility issues and meets three to four times per year.
The CR group within our Life Science business sector is responsible for coordinating and driving product-related sustainability. This includes our Design for Sustainability (DfS) program for eco-friendlier life science products, and DOZN™, a web-based tool for the quantitative assessment of greener alternatives.
Our commitment: Chemicals and product policies
To meet the product safety regulations relevant to our company, our Regulatory Affairs Group Policy details our Group-wide processes for managing and implementing product safety, including the necessary management structures.
In addition, the following guidelines set out several requirements for sustainable product design within our Performance Materials business sector:
- Green Product Policy: This ensures that we adhere to all national and international laws and statutes (e.g. REACH and the European Union RoHS Directive), as well as to industry and customer-specific requirements.
- Our raw materials for the cosmetics industry fulfill the high standards of the Cosmetics Directive and are produced in line with Good Manufacturing Practices for Cosmetic Ingredients (EFfCI GMP).
Our processes for sustainable product design
Within our Life Science business sector, a variety of approaches help our experts to drive sustainability improvement during product and packaging development:
- Through our Design for Sustainability program (DfS), we have developed a comprehensive approach to increasing the sustainability of life science products through the analysis of different sustainability criteria.
- Green chemistry assessment tool: In addition to our DfS program, our Life Science researchers are developing innovative solutions in line with the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry developed by chemists Paul T. Anastas and John C. Warner.
- Through our self-developed web-based tool DOZN™, we can assess the green alternatives of various chemicals, thereby creating transparency for our customers.
Current product examples from Performance Materials
Our Performance Materials products help boost sustainability in a variety of ways:
Liquid crystals ensure high picture quality in computer monitors and televisions, while also making them more power efficient. This is because our PS-VA technology (polymer-stabilized vertical alignment) arranges the liquid crystals so as to make better use of the backlighting, the display component that consumes the most power. PS-VA equipped devices require significantly less energy than their predecessors.
Self-aligned vertical alignment (SA-VA) is the next-generation liquid crystal technology now in the pipeline, with the first SA-VA products expected on the market in 2018. SA-VA helps conserve resources and is even more environmentally sustainable because less energy and solvent are required to manufacture the displays. Moreover, its manufacture is more efficient as it requires fewer process steps. Since SA-VA technology can be applied at lower temperatures, it is also suitable for sensitive materials such as those used in premium products, or for forward-looking applications such as flexible displays.
Mobile-device displays have increasingly high resolutions, yet are still expected to be as energy-efficient as possible. This is where our liquid crystals for touchscreen applications come in. Based on ultra-brightness FFS technology (UB-FFS), these liquid crystals provide displays with 15% more light transmission. This can reduce the energy consumption of smartphones and tablets by around 30%, thereby prolonging battery life. UB-FFS furthermore enhances picture resolution. We are currently working to advance this technology for non-mobile applications such as high-resolution flat-screen LCD televisions, where UB-FFS can help boost energy efficiency.
Optimizing liquid crystal production
By enhancing the standard C-C coupling reaction – where two hydrocarbon fragments are coupled via a new carbon-carbon bond – during the manufacture of liquid crystals, we have considerably reduced production waste while also saving € 12 million in production costs. Moreover, this change means we used fewer carcinogenic, mutagenic, and/or reprotoxic (CMR) substances.
Windows that can be darkened in a matter of seconds are now a reality thanks to our liquid crystal window (LCW) technology. The darkened windows also regulate the heat generated by direct sunlight while creating a certain sense of privacy. Commercialized under our licrivision™ brand, initial estimates show that this technology can lower the energy consumed by building climate control systems by up to 40%, thus replacing conventional sun shading. In 2017, we received the Frost & Sullivan Technology Innovation Award in the Smart Glass Industry category in recognition of our smart windows. We have invested € 15 million in the construction of a facility in the Netherlands to manufacture these switchable glass modules, which will start deliveries in 2018.
Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) likewise increase the energy efficiency of displays while also providing brilliant colors and razor-sharp images. Over the past several years, we’ve been collaborating closely with printer manufacturers to research innovative printing processes for the efficient production of large-area OLED displays. In September 2016, we opened a new production plant for OLED materials at our site in Darmstadt. Costing around € 30 million, this plant represents one of the largest single investments we’ve made at the Darmstadt site in recent years.
Innovations in photovoltaics
We supply the photovoltaics industry with materials for the production of solar cells. These materials enable the realization of innovative applications for photovoltaics, such as flexible, semi-transparent and lightweight solar cells that can be used in buildings, on curved or straight surfaces, and even in clothing. Take for instance the solar trees that we've installed next to our Innovation Center in Darmstadt. The organic photovoltaic modules used in the trees were manufactured with our printable formulations of modern high-performance polymers. The energy generated is stored during the day and used to illuminate the trees at night.
More natural-based cosmetics
In 2017, we teamed up with French company Agrimer to co-develop RonaCare®RenouMer, a skin care product that is extracted from a natural sea algae. Responding to the ever-growing popularity of natural cosmetics, we are working closely with our customers in the cosmetics industry to manufacture products such as RenouMer. We develop cosmetic formulations that comply with strict criteria. By the end of 2017, approximately one-third of our cosmetic raw materials met the criteria of Ecocert’s Cosmos standard for organic and natural cosmetics.
Alternative to plastic microbeads
We manufacture mineral-based pigments and functional fillers used by the cosmetics industry in formulations for various purposes. Our RonaFlair® functional fillers series provides an alternative to plastic microbeads contained in skin care products. Through this range, we are supporting initiatives such as the declaration of Cosmetics Europe, which advocates a phase-out of microplastics in rinse-off products by 2020. Microbeads are tiny, non-biodegradable polymer particles that cannot be filtered out by wastewater treatment plants. They end up in marine and terrestrial ecosystems, where they can harm the organisms living there.
Displaying Futures – Annual dialogue
Pioneering advances are only possible through close collaboration with our partners. We seek to engage with trailblazers who look far into the future and conceive groundbreaking technologies. To encourage this dialogue, we instituted the annual Displaying Futures symposium, which took place in November 2017 for the eighth time.
Held in Tokyo (Japan), this year’s conference was dedicated to the topic of “Digital Transformations”. We examined digital transformation from various angles and explored current societal trends, asking ourselves how we as Performance Materials can advance various ideas and also serve as a source of inspiration for research and development efforts.
Sustainable product design in the Life Science business sector
Through our Design for Sustainability (DfS) program, we have developed a comprehensive approach to increasing the sustainability of life science products. The DfS program provides our product developers with a range of tools enabling them to analyze the impact of the product on the following areas: materials, energy and emissions, waste, water, packaging, usability, and innovation. For each of these areas we have developed several sustainability criteria that are noted on a scorecard. When developing a new product, our aim is to improve on as many of these criteria scores as possible. We conduct product life cycle analyses to understand the potential environmental impacts within different product life cycle stages. The findings of these analyses show us how we can improve our products and are incorporated into subsequent development stages. During this process, experts from R&D, Product Management, Quality, Procurement, and other departments are in constant contact with one another.
of our product development projects currently meet three or more product sustainability criteria thanks to our DfS process.
We intend to incorporate our suppliers into our DfS program as well. In 2016, we launched a pilot project to define the relevant requirements for our vendors. In particular, our objective is for our suppliers to become engaged in Together for Sustainability (TfS), a chemical industry initiative.
Green chemistry assessment tool
In addition to DfS, our Life Science researchers are developing innovative solutions in line with the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry developed by chemists Paul T. Anastas and John C. Warner. These aim to make research as environmentally compatible as possible and to minimize negative impacts on human health. In total, we offer more than 750 products that align with the Principles of Green Chemistry, making them a greener alternative to conventional products.
Through our self-developed web-based tool DOZN™, we can assess the green alternatives of various chemicals, thereby creating transparency for our customers. Under DOZN™, the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry provide a framework for rating our products in three major stewardship categories, namely “Improved resource use”, “Increased energy efficiency” and “Reduced human and environmental hazards”. The system calculates scores based on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) as well as the Material Safety Data Sheet information on each substance. One score is given for each of the 12 principles, enabling an easy comparison of the products. The approach of the evaluation system has been verified by an independent body. To date, we have used this matrix to assess and improve more than 40 products. The DOZN™ processes and methods were validated by an environmental consulting company, and a peer-reviewed paper was published in March 2017.
Wide range of solutions
Our Life Science portfolio comprises a broad array of products, each with different properties that are taken into consideration when applying our DfS approach and the Principles of Green Chemistry. The following examples illustrate the results.
Greener laboratory filters
Under our DfS approach, we have significantly reduced the environmental footprint of our EZ-Fit™ Manifold laboratory filter. In comparison with its predecessor the Hydrosol Manifold, the EZ-Fit™ Manifold requires 47% less raw material. Its packaging consists of 100% recyclable cardboard, and overall, 99% of its parts are recyclable. Because the heads can be easily removed for cleaning, it is no longer necessary to autoclave the whole device, which saves energy and results in a 91% reduction in the carbon dioxide emissions produced during cleaning. In 2016, we furthermore expanded our range to include a disposable filtration device used to determine the microbial count in liquid samples. Thanks to DfS, we have in particular improved the packaging of these products.
In 2017 we received the European Bio-Based Chemical Innovation of the Year Award for our greener solvent Cyrene™. Bioderived from waste cellulose, this solvent is used as an alternative to dimethylformamide (formic acid), which has been the subject of increasing criticism in recent years due to its mutagenic effects. Through Cyrene™ and other greener solvents, we are helping our customers in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries make their production processes safer and more environmentally sustainable. We've teamed up with leading institutions and start-ups to co-develop further such green solvents. In contrast to conventional solvents, these are based on natural resources such as corn cobs and sugar cane bagasse, making them more eco-friendly, more biodegradable and easier to recycle. In 2017, we published the results of these R&D efforts in leading trade journals.
Eco-friendly lab water use
In mid-2017 we launched Milli-Q® IQ 7000, our new lab water purification and monitoring system. This product uses mercury-free UV oxidation lamps and has a hibernation mode to save energy while still preserving system water quality.