Amplifying Sustainability Principles with Jeffrey Whitford

December 14, 2023

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Jeffrey Whitford is the Vice President of Sustainability & Social Business Innovation for MilliporeSigma, the U.S. and Canada Life Science business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a $11 billion global science and technology company committed to enhancing the human experience through curiosity and sustainability. 

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John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian, and I’m so excited to have with us today Jeffrey Whitford. He’s the Global Vice President of sustainability and social business innovation at MilliporeSigma. MilliporeSigma is the US and Canada life science business work of Merck. Jeffrey will tell you a little bit more about that. Jeffrey, welcome to the Impact podcast.

Jeffrey Whitford: Thank you, John. It’s good to be here. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

John: So am I. There’s lots to talk about, about all the great work that you and your colleagues are doing at MilliporeSigma. But before we get into that, I’d love you to share with our listeners and viewers a little bit about your journey, your background, where you grew up, and how you got on this journey of sustainability and working for one of the greatest brands on the planet.

Jeffrey: Yeah John it’s one of those things where I would not have pictured myself where I am today. If we were to rewind back to Jeffrey from a small town, mid-Missouri circa the late ’90s, getting ready to go into college at that point in time, my worldview was pretty limited. I didn’t get it at that point in time. But now I look back and I see just kind of how contained the viewpoint that I had was, but really how that kind of started this cascade of what would be the next steps to get me on this journey and where I am today. That all started out with a decision in my junior year of high school to not continue down a pre-med track. I spent about a couple of hours on a field trip to the University of Missouri, Kansas City Medical School and they showed us these two-by-two work centers, and they were like, this is where you’re going to spend the majority of your life for the next six years. I was like, not for me. I’m out. So I ended up coming back. That summer I went and did Boys State and I was not involved in the government part of it. I actually got involved and worked with a producer from MTV to run advertising for the candidates. I was like, hey, this is kind of cool, maybe this could be something I could do. I went back and I talked to my guidance counselor and she looked at me and she was like, you’re an idiot. Did you know that the world’s number one school of journalism is about 90 minutes down the road? I was like, I have no clue what you’re talking about. She was like, oh, boy. So she taught me about the Missouri School of Journalism, which is where journalism education began. Fortunate for me, literally 90 minutes down the road in-state, great tuition for that perspective and that’s what I did.

I didn’t even do a campus tour or really learn more. I did a little bit of online research and I was like, okay, that’s what I’m going to do and that’s what I ended up doing. So I went to Columbia, to Mizzou. I pursued my bachelor’s of journalism with a focus on advertising. Four years later I was like, okay, it’s time to go work for an ad agency. Well, this is three years after 911. The ad agency is still in recovery mode. So jobs in the, I would say near geographic destinations that I was looking at weren’t really open or available. I looked in Kansas City, Chicago, and St. Louis, and there wasn’t anything there. Unbeknownst to me, my aunt had given my resume to a colleague or a friend of hers who then gave my resume to somebody else, to somebody else at this place called Sigma-Aldrich. I got a call in September of that fall asking if I was interested in coming to do an internship at Sigma-Aldrich. I was like, not really. No, I am not. What I learned about Sigma-Aldrich was that it was a chemical and life science company. I was like, this is definitely not what I went to school for. I understand nothing about it. I don’t think So. My dad had a different point of view. He said to me, look, Jeffrey, you’ve got two options. You can ask people if they’d like fries with that, or you can go to St. Louis and do this internship.

You pick, it’s your choice. I was like, well, I guess I’m going to St. Louis. I appreciate the golden arches, but that also is not something I’m going to be doing. So I packed up, I went to St. Louis, and interestingly enough John, this whole journey started with me proofreading a 3000-page catalog of all of the different things that we offer. It really was less of, I would say, a shopping tool and more of a reference point for scientists. It’s really an encyclopedia of all of this really remarkable scientific information. I just spent eight hours a day looking at every single page of that catalog to make sure that they trans out the output from the computer to the print. Didn’t have any issues. I wasn’t looking at the actual content, but just making sure that the content was transferred correctly. This really remarkable journey started with that. So I think if you got listeners who are thinking, how does this happen? I am living proof that it can start in the most basic simplistic way that you would never dream possible to kind of do these things. Really, it started for me with an internship. I have been with the company or permutation of the company for 18 years. So the start of proofreading catalogs led me to, I had different roles at that point in time communications. Then in 2008, I moved into procurement. I really thought that was the end of my job horizon. because I was like, why am I in procurement? What did I do to deserve this? But what was fascinating about that and the foresight of the people who asked me to do this was that it was really where I learned how the company worked.

I learned so much in terms of how we bought materials and how those fed into our supply chains to make materials or as we bought and resold things. It really gave me a point of view that I didn’t know I was going to need, but became extremely valuable as I moved into this space of sustainability one year later. They asked me to join what was at that point, one other person to be the sustainability department very shortly thereafter my boss at the time decided to leave the organization for another opportunity, and they said to me, hey, we’re going to have you figure this out. I was like, once again, are you sure? I don’t think you’ve got the right person. I have zero clue about green chemistry. I have no clue about emissions. I don’t understand a whole list of things. But what was remarkable about that time, and I think right now that is what I did at that point in time probably is not possible now, which was the ability to learn on the job. The sustainability field or career was really nascent at that point in time.

Simultaneous to starting that, I also went back for my MBA. What is remarkable about those two things happening simultaneously is that that component of the MBA education really informed how I view what’s possible with sustainability. From my viewpoint, this is an opportunity-driven view that I take, is that really the sky is the limit of what we can do. You can use business as a tool. You can use all of these principles that exist in really unique and interesting ways, instead of really taking a regulatory-bound view. That is about, well, what’s the limit that I have to get to? Instead of looking at that as a limit, I say, how do I blow past the limit so that I can really excite, shock, and awe people, and deliver something that they would never have expected?

John: That makes so much sense, and that’s fascinating. Also, I want to just give out the URL for our listeners and viewers to find Jeffrey and all the great work that he and his colleagues are doing at MilliporeSigma. You go to Now, please, before we get talking about all this great work you’re doing in sustainability and social business innovation Jeffrey, talk a little bit about the interrelationship between MilliporeSigma and Merck, because so many of our listeners and viewers, including myself, are familiar with the great and iconic brand, Merck, MilliporeSigma, less so explain how they interrelate and how they’re connected.

Jeffrey: Absolutely. So what I have now the honor of doing is being part of an organization that’s 355 years old. So I work for Merck KGaA Darmstadt Germany. You may be like, that’s a mouthful. Well, thank you to some 1917 World War I business transactions where the US appropriated any German-known assets. They created a separate company that a lot of people know as Merck and Co. That is not related to our organization at all. But the rest of the world where we operate, we’re known as Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Germany. In the US and Canada, our brands are known in different fashion. So one of those is MilliporeSigma. So we work globally. My remit is global and my team is global. I am just headquartered, or I am based in the US. Most of the time. So where I sit, the brand that I’m affiliated with is MilliporeSigma. That has been a continued evolution of acquisitions and growth, starting all the way back to the Merck family who began the company in Darmstadt, Germany back in 1668.

What has transpired is all of the growth and dramatic change that this company has been through, and all of the tumultuous times that it has also survived. And really this rapid and transformative growth that has happened certainly over the past, let’s call it 10, 20 years through some really strategic acquisitions adding in on the healthcare side the acquisition of Serona, which was based in Switzerland the 2010 acquisition of what was then Milliport which was a filtration based company in Massachusetts. Then in 2015, the acquisition of Sigma-Aldrich, was where I joined the mix. We had an acquisition in our electronics business of Verso in 2018, and 2019 ish. So through all of this transformative growth and building off of this remarkable base you have this extremely established global juggernaut that is really anchored in quality at the heart of all that we do, and especially for what we’re doing. If you think about our business and life sciences, this is helping deliver the ingredients, the materials for some of the world’s most dependent on lifesaving treatments, therapies, et cetera. You think about COVID, we weren’t producing the COVID vaccine, but we were a key part of that supply chain for COVID. That’s where I think quality for us as an organization really comes through and shines.

John: So since you are the global and your team is globally related with regards to sustainability and social business innovation, talk a little bit about when you sit in one office with one group of people, it’s not overwhelming to get a consensus. It’s not overwhelming to build a culture, but you are dealing with a dispersed workforce around the world very sophisticated with a very big brand that’s known everywhere. How do you get buy-in for some of your vision and strategies with regard to your sustainability initiatives when you’re dealing with such a diverse and dispersed workforce?

Jeffrey: Yeah, absolutely. So I was actually having a discussion about this this morning, and this was about complexity versus simplicity and and how you navigate this. I think that really speaks to the question you just asked John, which is we have 30,000 employees in probably 30-plus countries around the world, with more than 66 countries represented in our workforce. That’s a lot of diversity, right? That’s a lot of different experiences that bring about different perspectives of ways of things that should be done. Yeah. But what we are really focused on is how do we bring together a unified perspective and message that resonates and that is magnetic for our employees, that they say, man, that commitment is clear, it’s ambitious, and we are doing some big audacious, cool things that are making this happen. As I have been fortunate to be able to visit our sites, I also spent three and a half years living in Germany myself from 2017 to 2020. It helped, once again, widen that worldview that I talked about from this kid from mid-Missouri, who grew up with bring your tractor to school day all the way to global sustainability conversations.

That’s a, pretty significant leap. But what helps me, I think, navigate this is having put myself in other situations and having lived in another culture, you recognize how to displace yourself from the things that you naturally gravitate to those habits that kind of get established without you really knowing it. It really provides you an opportunity to say, how do I put myself in other people’s shoes? I find when you’re able to put yourself in other people’s shoes, this is when you’re able to make the most progress. Because ultimately I think most people want to be heard. They want to be listened to because all of these perspectives matter. There is a point of view behind all of them, and there’s something to learn from all of them. I think that is one of the things that has enabled us to be as successful at what we’re doing, is we are really taking in this feedback, trying to get the perspective and understand, and then also have the difficult conversations because sometimes those ideas are not things that we can do right now.

They may have to be deprioritized to a later time, but it’s incumbent on us to explain why that choice was made so that we can keep people engaged. They understand that we’re taking that under advice, but based on the number of people or the resources that we have, the amount of money we can invest in some of these things, we can’t do it all at once. But I think for us, it is about creating momentum increasing engagement, and then getting us all moving in a direction that is really about delivering with transparency, action, and impact. That really resonates with people because people are very tired of hearing people talk about things without seeing the outcomes or the results. So we need to lead with transparency and we need to lead with clear results.

John: You said something really brilliant though. You have lived in Germany for three years, but we’re speaking today. I happen to be in Los Angeles today. Typically I’m in Fresno in my home office. Today are speaking with me from London. How many days a year approximately and how wide a swath do you cross on an annual year in terms of the amount of travel and the variety of travel that you have to do on a business basis for for MilliporeSigma?

Jeffrey: Yeah. One of the things, and we’re kind of out of– and I don’t even know if there was a norm, but we’re still coming back out of COVID. What we’ve learned is we can be pretty effective doing a lot of things virtually. So we try to do as much as we can virtually because I’m also the person who needs to be the one who’s mindful of my CO2 footprint related to travel. So hopping on planes all the time is not necessarily the best solution, but I also am not going to sit here and climate shame people for making that choice. There are times when being in person is extremely beneficial. So for me, one of the things that I really try to do is anchor my time. So I would say a fairly unique situation where my partner lives in London and I spend the majority of my time in the US. But this is an anchor for me. This is a base that I can jump off from. So I try to come here and be here for a chunk of time, and then I can kind of tackle all of the things that I need to do in Europe in a more condensed fashion.

Makes sense. really try to anchor people in and squish them in to make it all work in these windows that I’m here. Then when I’m in the US similar story, I try to put as many things together so that I can be as efficient as possible. You know, when we started being, I would say more global and, and doing more travel, probably back, let’s call it 2012. We would do what we considered two weeks’ swings. So we would go basically to a region for two weeks and we would just go and we would be at a new site each day. It was exhausting but effective. It was also energizing too. It was tiring, but it was also great to meet all of these different people, have conversations, and start to establish and build those relationships. Because those personal relationships, when you are one-on-one, or with a group of people in person, I can tell you it has paid off beyond measure down the road because you can tap back into the time when you are in a room and connect with people in a different fashion than you do digitally. There are great things from the digital solutions we have, but I will be the first to say there is virtually nothing that can replace that personal interaction that you get to have.

John: Absolutely. Now, I’m 60, and I’m a kid from Little Neck Queens, which is basically nowhere. No one really knows Little Neck Queens. You’re a kid from Missouri. I think what’s the important message that the next generations behind us need to hear and understand you are not online, nor am I closing any important business relationships or transactions or managing your diverse and fascinating and dispersed employee base over Instagram, Snapchat Facebook, and albeit their wonderful social platforms for those who want to enjoy them, but the nose to nose and the personal element of your perspective, now that you’ve become truly not a citizen of London or Missouri anymore, you are more of a global citizen. That global citizenship gets to really allow you the luxury and the opportunity and the honor of being the global vice president of sustainability of not only MilliporeSigma but change the brand name, an international global brand. And it’s folks like you who continue to travel and do things in person in so many ways. Although you’re right, this is not an exercise in climate shaming because of commercial travel, which we all have to do. But the importance of it can’t be overlooked at all. The fact that since you’ve been a business person and traveling as much as you’ve had to on those grueling types of swings, the dividends that pay off with regards to your sensitivity to people’s diversity and need to be heard, as you said earlier, is, is world-class now.

Jeffrey: Yeah. I think one of the things that I’ve learned, and I think your comment about all of these other tools that we’ve got. They all support the end. Whether that’s in-person or digital. They’re all support mechanisms and they help accomplish different things in different efficiencies. I can have a lot of virtual meetings that I probably could have knocked something out in an in-person meeting in 30 minutes, but it’s going to take me five virtual meetings to get the exact same thing done because we’re either distracted someone doesn’t have as much of a commitment because there’s not a connection. So all of these things and one of the things the Telltale sign for me on this one is I open up my email and I get a message from a colleague who said, I don’t know if you remember me, but, and then dot dot dot. And it’s an idea, it is offering to help. It is a suggestion of something that they’ve seen that they think can pull through. That wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t this door that was created through that in-person connection. We need to be responsible and mindful. We don’t need to just go fling ourselves around the world for fun. But I think there’s a place for it, and we have to hope that these airlines come through with some SAF solutions that help decarbonize that sector as well.

John: That’s right. We talked about the internal stakeholders and getting buy-in. Talk a little bit about the external stakeholders, partners, customers, and strategic partners. Talk about getting buy-in from them on your sustainability vision.

Jeffrey: Yeah. I would say one of my favorite things to do is to talk with customers. I absolutely love it. It is for me, a bellwether, it signals how we are doing. It is the best kind of true serum that you can find because the customers do not hold back. We often walk into conversations with our customers and it is really interesting because most of the time I know how it’s going to play out. They come in and they’re like, we need this and you’ve got to do this, and it’s important that this happens from sustainability. Then we go into what we’re doing. Then they’re like, and you just get that drop jaw, kind of like, whoa, didn’t expect that. That’s when you know. That’s when I’m like, okay, we’re doing, we’re doing something. But this all goes back to that principle of accountability, transparency, and impact, but being able to translate that in a way that helps customers understand that we are committed to this and we are the best choice that they could make to spend every dollar, euro, yen, Juan, whatever currency that you’ve got, whatever that customer is using, that we are going to be the people who can help them reduce their scope three emissions and to choose us more often. I get to be a salesperson for a company, even though I’m not, that is not my job. My job is not sales.

But I get to aid in that process. It is one of the most fascinating and interesting roles that I get to play because I get to come into a room and without question, be passionate about what I do. I hope, and people have given me feedback that that translates. But that is a sincere component because I am getting to do the most amazing job. I work with amazing team members. The people I work with are fantastic. They make each day surprising interesting and phenomenal because they are doing such remarkable work that I get to be a champion of. I can work to help elevate what they’re doing. Then we get to take that and translate it for our customers. The other group you mentioned, kind of, if we think about this continuum, another group of stakeholders that are certainly of interest to us right now are exactly what I am to our customers and our suppliers. So if we think about this continuum, upstream, downstream, when we think about our suppliers, this is a huge and critical component for us to be able to figure out effectively. This is the I won’t say next frontier because everyone knows that or if they don’t know, here we go, that the most impact sits within your supply chain.

Typically, for most organizations, 75% to 90% of a company’s footprint sits within their supply chain. That means for us, there are 30,000, 40,000 suppliers that we need to work with to help them along this journey. Now, the reality of that situation John, is that most of those suppliers don’t have me, they don’t have my team, typically, a lot of them are going to have a person who pays the electric bill, who unloads things off the dock, who changed the light bulbs, who is also the person who deals with the sustainability stuff and that is the reality of the situation, which highlights the challenge that we are going to face, which is helping and partnering with these suppliers rather than going to them with demands. I’ve sat in the chair where I’m the person who’s on the receiving end of the demands of sustainability from customers, which is okay if that’s the way route you choose to go.

Okay. But what I have taken away from this is we have an opportunity to take all of the things that we’ve learned and applied, and make that into actionable toolkits that our suppliers can take, they can use, they can apply to help them decarbonize. Because I am slightly worried otherwise, without some assistance, without a partnership, I don’t think that we’re going to get there as rapidly as we need to. That, for me, is probably one of the most important takeaways. If we think about where I spend my time, I won’t say worried, but where I spend my time thinking about how do we do a better job. It is how do we work with these suppliers to help them along to connect them, to help them expedite their work to decarbonize? Because this is a big challenge.

John: That’s a fascinating point. But given that, as you said, they’re far less sophisticated than you and your team, give us a few examples of how you work with them to make your supply chain more sustainable to better support MilliporeSigma.

Jeffrey: Absolutely. So one great example, and here, I sit as a big global brand and working in a big global organization. But let me give you an example of how we weren’t that big. So a couple of years ago we signed a virtual power purchase agreement, which was a 68-megawatt deal in Throckmorton, Texas for our part of the buy it was 14 wind turbines that matched 100% of our electricity usage here in the United States. So, great. But we had to do an aggregated buy and aggregated buys at that point in time, were not something that were common. You may be asking what in the world is an aggregated buy? Aggregated buy is when you bring multiple buyers together who can’t or don’t have the demand that’s big enough that interest the developers to then have a buying block to get basically enough of the energy to have an interest. So it was us, Synopsis, Akamai, and Uber.

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Uber is not small, but once again, same situation. So we were the lead buyer in that deal. Now, why that’s important is because it’s a new model. It’s a new model that helped smaller companies access a bigger market so that they could do something transformational. For us, that moved us from 42% renewable electricity to 77% renewable electricity for our entire system. But these are the types of things. Do our suppliers understand that they could participate in an aggregated buy? How do we help them understand the places they can plug in to get information about that, and understand the financial benefits and or risks and challenges that are associated with it? But those are the types of things. Those are brass tacks, things that you can actually take and do something with.

John: And everybody wins. You move your needle 33% or so from 44% to 77%, but also those small folks have now a chance to piggyback on your buying ability. And bigger is better when it comes to those kinds of buys. So they get to offset their energy needs as well. That sounds like a win all around. I mean, nobody loses in that there’s an upside for everybody.

Jeffrey: I think that’s exactly it. We can’t always deliver on the win-win-win scenarios. Sure. But that’s the goal. That’s how we look at this and think about it, because this isn’t a zero-sum game. This can be a situation where the pie is bigger for everyone. That is what we are focused on figuring out. How do we do this more often than not, how are we figuring out to expand the availability, accessibility, the inclusion of more people so that they can access these things and do more?

John: That’s tremendous. For our listeners and viewers who’ve just joined us, we’ve got Jeffrey Whitford with us today. He’s the Global Vice President of sustainability and social business innovation at MilliporeSigma. To find Jeffrey and his colleagues and all the important and impactful work they’re doing in the world of sustainability, please go to Switching topics slightly, given that you also represent a consumer brand, a brand that’s serving people around the world in a very important way. Talk a little bit about the improvements that have been made in sustainability with regards to packaging innovation and sustainability, and how you’ve leveraged those evolutions to benefit MilliporeSigma and of course, the environmental impact on the products that you serve to the public at large.

Jeffrey: Yeah. So one of the things that I think we all recognize even more post-COVID is that you can make some quick judgments on whether or not people do sustainability well through packaging. This is the one place where you’ve got the best grouping of evidence because you have got boxes. You’ve got things in the boxes, and was it done effectively? Was it done efficiently? So one of the things that I get often is tweets from our customers. They are providing feedback about the experience, and usually, that is an experience that’s not great. That feedback is extremely beneficial. I think before we looked at this and said as an organization, we are like, well, the package derived on time. Yes, that’s one measurement and one metric. But guess what? There are some other things that we could take a look at too. Was the customer satisfied with the experience? Was the shipment optimized for what the customer was receiving? This is where helping our colleagues in operations understand this other perspective and share this information with them. Surprisingly, that information never quite made it over the fence to them, right? Or it got buried in some other place where somebody was like, okay, we’re just not going to talk about that.

The role that I get to play is, okay, let’s not take that as a negative. It’s not great, but let’s take that as a learning opportunity instead of bearing it, let’s think about how can we address that. What can we do with it, and how do we change it? So in 2019, we introduced a new program called Smash Packaging, and people asked me like, is that an acronym for something? What in the world is it, are you talking about? I was like, no, this is literally smashing the idea of packaging as we know it and just doing it completely differently. There are certain things that yes, we’re going to have to do, but how do we put together an industry-first approach that offers a new view on what packaging can be, things that we’re going to commit to, and we may not achieve them all, but we’re going to be clear and transparent about what we do achieve and where we’ve fallen short, and what we can do differently to help fix those things down the road and continue to update our stakeholders. So every year since 2019, we have issued a Smash packaging report, which details the progress that we’ve made, and each year we get better at adding more transparency and being more specific about the successes, but also the failures.

That is one of the things that has been a principle that I’ve operated by is to share the failures. Everyone looks at these gleaming, glossy sustainability reports, and they all look great. It is not all great. Like if you are under the hood, in the trenches where I am at, there are some moments that are downright, you’re just like, dang it, this is not how this was supposed to go. But guess what, when you share that, the authenticity of what you’re doing is far stronger, and it helps people understand that, yeah, we are not sitting here knitting ponchos and everything is easy. There are some tough things that we’re trying to solve. There’s complexity within the organization, and we are working on it, we may not have solved it yet, but we have not lost track of it, and we are not going to go bury it so that you forget about it and we just move on like it didn’t happen. So for us, and the packaging, you look at things like, how do we increase or actually decrease the amount of dead air space in a box? This happens because right now our operators are looking at a shipment, and then they look at the box selection and they’re like, okay, which one of these is going to be the one that doesn’t cause me to have to repack it, and still hit the number of packages that I need to pack in an hour?

But that highlights an opportunity. How do we get volumetric or 3D mapping of all of those packages? So an on-the-fly calculation can happen when we see what the order configuration is and what can go in what boxes based on regulations to then tell that packaging operator exactly which box they need to pick. So they don’t have to do the dance of which box is it? Is it B, C, D? I don’t know. Now we can make it easier, simpler for them, and more sustainable because we are decreasing debt, air space, volumetric shipping, more emissions, and more space. That’s what this equals. But it’s also an opportunity to reduce expenses. We can use less material. We then put those things hopefully in boxes that are certified because they come from sustainably managed forests. So the material selection we’re making is better. We’re eliminating plastics where possible, or if we can’t eliminate the plastics because of sterility requirements for the environments that we ship our products into, plastics may still be required. Can we use bio-based plastics? But can those bio-based plastics be recycled? Or can we introduce materials that have recycled plastics in them to help decrease virgin plastic use. So all of these things are things that we’re balancing to try to figure out ultimately how we can give the customer the best experience using this shrink secure switch and save kind of mindset is the pillars of the Smash packaging framework.

John: So fascinating. I’m so glad you framed it up that way, because as you said at the beginning of time, the binary discussion was, did we deliver the right materials on time to the right customer? That’s how simple success was defined. But as you said, as the world has evolved for all the right reasons, the discussion has gotten much broader and these are not easy topics that you’re tackling. It is part of what you do also because truly you are an OEM, you’re considered an OEM. It’s also now creating what I’m seeing in the electronics industry, which is the business I’m in for my day job that the OEMs have developed now designed for sustainability divisions that help get ahead of, as you said, on the Smash packaging opportunity as you put it, which is a great way of putting it. They’re now engineering in advance what things are going to look like 2, 3, 4 years from now. Their sole purpose is designed for sustainability in every way, shape, and form. Is that something that’s also come to your industry as well from the electronics industry and other OEM industries?

Jeffrey: Yeah, so we have a team that does design for sustainability. One of my team members oversees that as well as two additional team members who work with specific business divisions to partner with 1900 R&D scientists to integrate those principles. So before, we actually started that back in 2014, but in 2014, that was really an optional choice, and it was internally focused. All the things that we did were internal measurements and we took a step back. So after the integration happened and we looked at the entire asset pool, I looked at that one and I said, this is great. I love this, but we’ve got to change this because it’s got to be externally focused. We’ve got to be able to share these outcomes with our customers. So we took a step back and my colleague who works on this is fantastic. He’s so detail-oriented and just so much care and concern and ownership of this process. He took a couple of years to be honest and look at this framework made adjustments and really increased the depth and the rigor of it.

We now grade on 47 criteria. This one was Herculean. When he told me that this had happened, I was like, are you kidding me? Like, I am a person who believes anything is possible, but this one I was like, I don’t know if this is possible. He managed to work with our teams which govern the whole product development process. He spent time and we had great partners in that product development governance team who helped work with us to say, how would we integrate this into the process so that it is a required part of the process and is not no longer optional and this really meets the mandate that I and the team have, which is to embed sustainability holistically into our organization. So now, every single new product that kicks off goes through the design for sustainability process, grades against these 47 criteria come out with a quantitative scorecard at the end that we can then share with the customers that meet this goal of increasing the number of greener alternative products that we have in our portfolio from currently around, let’s call it 2,500, with the goal of reaching 30,000 products by 2030. So it is a phenomenal transformation, but it’s that component of design for sustainability that helps with the product transformation of what we offer to our customers, of giving them more tools in the toolbox so that they can do what they do with a smaller footprint.

John: Friends of mine who are colleagues and business relationships of mine also in the retail industry, have the same issue of packaging and delivering packaging to our home. All the boxes of all the goodies that we order online as the world has evolved have leveraged this trend of AI and robotics in terms of redesigning their packaging. Then also, as you said, getting packaging more to fit the footprint of the materials that are inside. Is that something that’s also being leveraged by MilliporeSigma and your team in terms of design for sustainability, leveraging the wonderful world of AI and robotics now to help in that process?

Jeffrey: So we’re starting to explore that more John, and looking at things like, how could you use AI to help understand where potential substitutions could be made? So what information exists from the literature that could help our scientists make more efficient decisions? So those substitutions could be made. You look at things like robotics, how could box-on-demand solutions? So instead of using a fixed set of boxes that you choose from, you’ve got small, medium, large, and extra large, could you have something that constructs a box based on the contents that is really directly related to those exact contents? So you’ve got a custom box each and every time that is purpose-fit for that. So we are starting to tap more into technology and how technology can be applied. To be honest, we’re just at the beginning in terms of all of the different applications and where we can go with it. It’s exciting and also a bit uncomfortable because you’re like, I don’t know if I’m technologically up to snuff to be able to do all this. But as a constant and ever-present learner, it is a great challenge to put yourself in that place.

John: You mentioned earlier your sustainability report. How often does that come out?

Jeffrey: So that is an annual event. Typically for us, that releases in April. The process has already kicked off. So we’re beginning to look at the content, how and what we’re going to add in there. It is one of the important things in thinking about sustainability reporting from my viewpoint is how do we do a better job of helping people understand what matters and increasing the transparency level and our conciseness so that you can get through these at times, very long reports in a more efficient fashion and understand exactly what is happening and are we on the right trajectory to achieve the goals that we’ve set out to do. Reporting is not for the fan of the heart. It is important and critical though, because we need to have the accountability measurement in place to hold our feet to the fire.

John: As you said, it’s not about just talking the talk anymore, it’s walking the walk. And those reports are great compendiums of the walk that you’re on and when done right, as you point out with radical transparency, your clients, your customers, your partners, and supply chain folks really appreciate the, like as you, you used the word earlier, the authenticity that you’ve exhibited for better and for worse, the failures and the successes will endear your products and your services to everyone you touch even more. Because it shows that, as we all know, sustainability is a journey. There’s no finish line and we got to just keep going.

Jeffrey: I think exactly with that John and every kind of communication opportunity they have, whether that’s one-on-one with a customer, whether that’s a social media thing, we try to inject some of that personality and passion that we have because that is really where you see this come through. I really believe people feel and see the difference and that changes their engagement.

John: Well, do these reports live on your MilliporeSigma website?

Jeffrey: You can get to them. It’s through like a combination, but if you get to the Merck KGaA Darmstadt Germany website, that’s where the sustainability, all of that report sits. But there should be a clear connection on the website so that you can navigate your way there.

John: Obviously you have massive passion and excitement for

what you doing and also for your team that you exude. Talk a little bit about now as we wind up for today, what gets you out of bed in the morning in terms of programs and initiatives that you’re looking forward to in the future, Jeffrey?

Jeffrey: Yeah, so one of the things that makes my life fantastic is the fact that there is so much diversity in the topics that I get to work with. In one day I could be literally bouncing all around from thinking about all the philanthropic investments that we’re making around the world, and how are we doing work on making sure that girls have better access to STEM education and are included in that process and are represented all the way to packaging topics. Then bouncing back to recycling single-use plastics in a biopharma environment to thinking about how do you take those recycled materials to get them back into an R&D process for a new product that we’re developing. Then pivoting over to energy efficiency at a facility to think about how we look at installing heat pumps to take out natural gas usage that then transitions over into carbon reductions.

So the things that I get most excited about are really the breadth and scope of what we get to do, the trust that my organization has put in me and this team to do what we do and really to guide the choices that we make and the vote of confidence to invest in the work that we do and the way they have. Most importantly, I think it is really about transmitting the impact outside of our walls. Like, if we achieve our goals, great, but what is actually going to be the marker of our success is for me what we can do with the supply chain. So if we talk about the areas where I’m really focused now is focusing on the supply chain and helping those 40,000 suppliers make radical transformations to what they do, because I think it’s going to be better for all of us.

Then on top of that is what can happen when our customers are successful and we help them do transformative things because especially with the industry we work with and as suppliers to a lot of pharma and healthcare companies, these drugs have gone through regulatory approval. Once they’ve gone through an FDA or EMA, nice review and approval, you can’t change them and that means decades of basically embedded carbon footprint because there’s only a certain amount you can do through energy. You’ve got to actually address the materials. I think about what’s possible in terms of our ability to help transform the materials that these organizations are using to give them that broader toolbox of tools to choose from so that they can do what they do.

I don’t have scientific data, I’m not a scientist on this, but I really have to go out on a limb and think that there are going to be more benefits that we will see by choosing better materials for these drugs and treatments and therapies that help reduce side effects, that make those drugs more effective in the longer term, and is just better that helps deliver on this promise or potential of net zero patient care and that to me is what is a fascinating challenge that is out there for me to be one of the people who helps solve.

John: That’s wonderful. Hey, Jeffrey, thank you for your time today and your absolute inspirational messaging. For our listeners and viewers to find Jeffrey and his colleagues and all the impactful and important work they’re doing in sustainability at MilliporeSigma, please go to Jeffrey, you’re always welcome back on the Impact Podcast to continue to share the journey of sustainability at MilliporeSigma, thank you for spending time with us today. Thank you for the inspirational important work you’re doing, and thank you, most importantly, for making the world a better place for all of us.

Jeffrey: I appreciate it, John. Thank you for the time and thank you for the invitation.

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