On Thursday, May 29, Net Impact Boston and the New England Chapter of the National Association of Environmental Management (NAEM), are holding an interactive panel discussion on Solutions for Driving Enhanced Product Sustainability. We’re so excited that Christina Bosch, Program Manager, Corporate Responsibility at EMD Millipore will be joining us as a panelist. Here’s a sneak preview of what you’ve got to look forward to.
How did you first become interested in sustainability?
I’ve had a lifelong interest in the environment, but really became interested in corporate sustainability as a career after working for a few years in environmental and economic consulting for government agencies, and increasingly seeing industry as a place to make more immediately practical and innovative changes related to sustainability.
Can you tell a little about EMD Millipore’s approach to driving sustainability across the product life cycle?
Sure! To build on a lot of great work to understand our product impacts through LCA (life cycle assessment) and to meet customer needs for product waste management and recycling, we’re now embedding sustainability principles into new product development. This allows us to not only understand impacts of existing products, which often serve as a baseline for new product improvements, but also to make design choices and changes the first time around that tangibly reduce impacts in areas such as materials selection, water consumption and use phase emissions.
What are the key challenges of driving sustainability across the product life cycle?
One challenge is that different parts of a product’s life cycle are owned by different organizations. Development is with R&D and technical staff, whereas production may be with a combination of in-house and contract manufacturing, packaging and logistics are each handled separately, and product disposal is solidly outside our four walls but still an opportunity for improvement in support of our customers. This makes it tricky to a) fully understand where impacts lie and b) make cohesive changes that don’t inadvertently result in greater negative impacts elsewhere in the life cycle. But that’s also part of the fun – to connect across all those groups.
What innovations in product sustainability are you most excited about?
To my mind, the most elegant and inspiring ones come from the field of biomimcry. Have you heard of this coating technology for preventing bacteria growth on surfaces without the need for harsh chemicals (think hospitals and gyms) that’s based on the structure of shark skin? How cool is that? But more practically, I am excited about seemingly small changes, that when scaled across a product line or a business result in significant improvements.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in sustainability?
Industry and the world still really need a bigger emphasis on sustainability and more dedicated people working to make business more sustainable, so don’t get hung up on a title, and start making it happen in whatever your role or company. Get really practical. Given the business you’re in, what can actually be done, and how? It’s important to set a vision and have bigger aims, but you need tangible projects to get traction towards those.
Finally – if you could make one item or product in your life more sustainable, what would it be?
Tough one. I guess top of mind since I’m moving soon would be furniture. I’d like an easy way to find quality used pieces.
Don’t miss out on hearing more from Christina – sign up to attend the Net Impact Boston and NAEM panel event today.