Life Sciences

Sustainability—
A Core Business

The Boehringer Ingelheim research pharmaceutical company shows how a global corporation can be strongly committed to anchoring sustainability in a vibrant corporate culture—in all of its departments and for all of its 53,000 employees.

06/2023

The team at Boehringer Ingelheim led by Vice President Lars Murawski (right) includes Annette Eckes (Senior Manager Circular Economy), Ingo Weiss (Head of Global Environment & Sustainability Management), and around 350 of their EHS colleagues (Environment, Health, Safety).Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

Large flags wave in state­ly fash­ion above the main entrance to Boehringer Ingel­heim in the west­ern Ger­man coun­ty of Mainz-Bin­gen, near the Rhine River and the vine­yards of Rhineland-Palati­nate and Hesse. They bear the logo of the world-famous com­pa­ny. The word “sus­tain­abil­i­ty” would be a fit­ting addition—because Boehringer Ingel­heim has devot­ed itself to this topic more than almost any other com­pa­ny in Ger­many. Impres­sive exam­ples illus­trate its com­mit­ment, like a new bio­mass heat­ing plant that will start up in Ingel­heim in late 2023 and sus­tain­ably sup­ply up to 80 per­cent of the town’s ener­gy needs with lower car­bon emis­sions. It will be pow­ered by wood waste unsuit­able for any other pur­pose. In the words of Lars Muraws­ki, Vice Pres­i­dent for Envi­ron­ment Health, Safe­ty, and Sus­tain­abil­i­ty, the project is a “quan­tum leap.”

Valentin Koch heads Boehringer Ingelheim’s business operations in Germany. The company’s innovative employee restaurant has received “Germany’s best cafeteria” honors multiple times from the “Food & Health” initiative. Boehringer Ingelheim
The company’s cafeteria also provides meals to go—in practical reusable containers. Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Daily displays at the cafeteria buffet show Boehringer Ingelheim’s employees which dishes are especially environmentally friendly. Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Signs at the cafeteria show how much is emitted to produce certain basic foods.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

Environmental protection tastes good, too

The cafe­te­rias at the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny found­ed by Albert Boehringer back in 1885 stopped using dis­pos­able plas­tic uten­sils long ago. The meat they serve comes from ani­mals reared under species-appro­pri­ate con­di­tions. Boehringer Ingelheim’s food ser­vices alone have cut their orig­i­nal emis­sion lev­els by 20 per­cent. For this they received not only “Germany’s best cafe­te­ria” hon­ors from the “Food & Health” ini­tia­tive but also their first “Green Can­teen” cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. And final­ly, the com­pa­ny stands out with its sus­tain­able prac­tices for con­fer­ences and meet­ings. Its “Green Meet­ings” approach begins with encour­ag­ing par­tic­i­pants to trav­el to events on pub­lic trans­porta­tion. It selects loca­tions that pri­or­i­tize ener­gy effi­cien­cy and care­ful use of mate­ri­als. For trade fairs and exhi­bi­tions it also thinks and acts in green ways, includ­ing con­struct­ing its stands with sus­tain­able mate­ri­als, avoid­ing sin­gle-use pack­ag­ing, and refrain­ing from offer­ing pro­mo­tion­al gifts.

Boehringer Ingel­heim is the first phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal cor­po­ra­tion to be rec­og­nized as a “cli­mate pro­tec­tion com­pa­ny” by Germany’s Fed­er­al Min­istry for the Envi­ron­ment. It has clear­ly earned this sta­tus, hav­ing worked for years to inte­grate sus­tain­abil­i­ty into all of its oper­a­tional lev­els. Exam­ples include con­tin­u­ous fur­ther devel­op­ment of ener­gy-effi­cient build­ing tech­nol­o­gy with sus­tain­able and intel­li­gent­ly con­trolled heat and air-con­di­tion­ing, the pro­duc­tion and sup­ply of green power, care­ful use of water, plans for a step-by-step con­ver­sion of its fleet to elec­tric vehi­cles, and intel­li­gent green logis­tics. The lat­ter is linked with ever more ambi­tious tar­gets to reduce the num­ber of kilo­me­ters tra­versed by the company’s suppliers.

The list of addi­tion­al activ­i­ties devot­ed to con­tin­u­ous­ly improv­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty is long, and invest­ments are on the order of a hun­dred mil­lion euros. One major pil­lar is the glob­al “More Green” pro­gram, which is Boehringer Ingelheim’s net­work for eco­log­i­cal sus­tain­abil­i­ty. “More Green” encom­pass­es a range of activ­i­ties designed to pro­tect the plan­et, its resources, and forms of life. Spe­cial pri­or­i­ties are placed on achiev­ing car­bon neu­tral­i­ty for com­pa­ny process­es by the year 2030, reduc­ing sup­ply chain emis­sions, improv­ing cir­cu­lar econ­o­my sys­tems, and reduc­ing water use foot­prints. These mea­sures apply to all of the company’s sites.

What’s impor­tant to note is that the “Sus­tain­able Development—For Gen­er­a­tions” pro­gram is by no means a belat­ed response to urgent calls for greater envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and respon­si­bil­i­ty. Quite the con­trary: ever since it was found­ed in 1885, Boehringer Ingel­heim can show that its actions have con­sis­tent­ly been guid­ed by prin­ci­ples of sus­tain­abil­i­ty and resource preservation.

53,000 people with one shared goal

“We’re helping to make the world a better place for current and future generations,” says Lars Murawski, Vice President for Environment, Health, Safety, and Sustainability at Boehringer Ingelheim. Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

“We’re help­ing to make the world a bet­ter place for cur­rent and future gen­er­a­tions, and to cre­ate ideal con­di­tions for a healthy plan­et,” says Muraws­ki. That itself sounds like an ideal. But it’s more than that. The resolve is clear­ly present in the every­day rou­tines of the cor­po­ra­tion and its approx­i­mate­ly 53,000 employ­ees. “As a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal research com­pa­ny we’re espe­cial­ly inter­est­ed in envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and sus­tain­able action because there’s a direct con­nec­tion between our core busi­ness and cli­mate pro­tec­tion,” he notes. “You can only improve the health of peo­ple and ani­mals if you have a healthy environment—and a healthy plan­et in turn means health­i­er peo­ple and animals.”

Beating the curve

In addi­tion to the company’s own sources of moti­va­tion, the need to ensure com­pli­ance with ever stricter reg­u­la­to­ry require­ments also dri­ves the work of Boehringer Ingelheim’s more than 350 EHS (envi­ron­ment, health, safe­ty) staff mem­bers. As gov­ern­ments and inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions sharp­en their focus on sus­tain­abil­i­ty, ever more laws and reg­u­la­tions are intro­duced, along with report­ing require­ments. Taxes and fees in the sec­tor are expect­ed to rise fur­ther over the com­ing years. There could also be stronger restric­tions on prod­uct appli­ca­tions. “We’re always try­ing to stay out in front of the curve,” says Muraws­ki in describ­ing the company’s efforts to act as early as pos­si­ble as well as inde­pen­dent­ly of gov­ern­ment directives.

Dr. Tim Derey­maek­er, Asso­ciate Part­ner ESG & Sus­tain­abil­i­ty at Porsche Con­sult­ing, applauds this approach. “Boehringer Ingel­heim is set­ting a strong exam­ple. Every com­pa­ny should be min­i­miz­ing the risks asso­ci­at­ed with stricter EHS require­ments in order to gen­er­ate sus­tain­able value for them­selves, soci­ety, and the environment—and to reduce future costs. Sus­tain­abil­i­ty has become a key chal­lenge in every indus­try, in terms of both strat­e­gy and oper­a­tions. If com­pa­nies don’t act sus­tain­ably soon­er or later, I’m afraid they won’t be able to survive.”

This is clear to Boehringer Ingel­heim. “Sus­tain­abil­i­ty is part of our cor­po­rate cul­ture,” says Muraws­ki. “We want to min­i­mize our impact as much as pos­si­ble. That means not only in devel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion, but also in the every­day oper­a­tions at all of our sites.” He and his team, which includes Annette Eckes, Senior Man­ag­er Cir­cu­lar Econ­o­my at cor­po­rate head­quar­ters, and Ingo Weiss, Head of Glob­al Envi­ron­ment & Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Man­age­ment, are eager to sup­port the mis­sion and “bring our ideas to life.” One fac­tor in suc­cess lies in not just pro­mot­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty from the top down but also sup­port­ing it from the bot­tom up. “Our employ­ees at all the sites can and should con­tribute their ideas and ener­gy to new devel­op­ments. For that we need con­sis­ten­cy and trans­paren­cy, which is our respon­si­bil­i­ty in Ingel­heim as the head­quar­ters of our glob­al EHS net­work.” And that works. As Muraws­ki sums it up, “It’s amaz­ing how much power comes from our employees.”

Porsche Consulting supports sustainability

Dr. Tim Dereymaeker is Associate Partner ESG & Sustainability at Porsche ConsultingPorsche Consulting
Since early 2021, an interdisciplinary team from Porsche Consulting has been supporting Boehringer Ingelheim on its journey toward sustainability. In the first stage of their collaboration, the partners conducted analyses and took stock in order to make the status quo transparent throughout the corporation. How high are the company’s carbon emissions? How much water is consumed? Where is most of the waste produced? After those six or eight weeks of project work, proposals were developed for a catalogue of measures that was presented to decision-makers. As sustainability expert Dereymaeker explains, “For us, projects of this type always include calculating the business cases. Boehringer Ingelheim had multiple reasons for its decision to work on sustainability with Porsche Consulting. According to Murawski, long-term successful client relations in other areas such as quality management were one factor. Another was Porsche Consulting’s “experience with EHS transformations in other companies and industries.” As he explains, “We’re convinced we can learn a lot from comparative analyses of processes and results.” Or in other words, from benchmarking. “The view from outside that the external consultants bring has always helped move us forward.” Dereymaeker emphasizes the crucial importance of a good working relationship. “If you don’t have all the employees on board, even the best-intentioned projects will come to nothing in actual practice,” he says. Porsche Consulting is therefore guided by the following principle: “We get everyone involved—from shop-floor staff to top-level board members.” To put Boehringer Ingelheim's strategies into practice, the management consultancy recommended using “ambassadors” to spread ideas throughout the corporation and encourage people to join in because they themselves think sustainability is a good thing. “These and other measures have enabled us to move developments along faster,” observes Dereymaeker. Plans for the near future include expanding the Green Fleet project and optimizing external reporting, such as for ESG with the requisite detailed indicators. “Sustainable actions pay off, both internally and externally,” says Dereymaeker. “They enhance your reputation among customers, business partners, employees, governments, institutions, and other stakeholders—or in other words, with the partners who are critical to your company’s long-term success.”
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