In an interview with Dr. medical Markus Neumann from the HAGER Life Sciences Practice explains to Eric De Kesel, who is responsible for sustainability at the Swedish medical device manufacturer Mölnlycke, how disposable products can still produce a good ecological balance. He says: “Ethical behavior attracts ethical behavior”. But not only this formula for success is exemplary.
World market leader Mölnlycke Health Care is on the way to becoming a zero-waste company and is continuously reducing the ecological footprint of its products and processes. On which considerations and regulations is Mölnlycke's sustainable future based?
ERIC DE KESEL: “Our goal is to improve healthcare worldwide. And sustainability is a strategic priority. We recognize the importance of reducing our carbon emissions throughout our value chain and are in the process of building a sustainable ecosystem for the production of the healthcare solutions we offer, including minimizing product waste and improved efficiency in the use of raw materials. By 2, 2030 percent of our packaging will be recyclable and more than 95 percent of all packaging will be made from recycled (PCR) and/or renewable material.
Our sustainability goals are based on the relevant international conventions, including the goals of the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement. Science is fundamental to everything we do. The indicators according to the standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the OECD guidelines for multinational companies are decisive for us. By 2050 at the latest, we want to achieve net-zero emissions along the entire value chain and both reduce material consumption and decouple it from our growth. With 'WeCare' we have developed a medium and long-term sustainability plan ('roadmap') in order to create common value for all our stakeholders. We see sustainability as an engine for growth, innovation and productivity, and as an essential part of our value proposition to our employees.”
How does "WeCare" steer the path to sustainable transformation?
ERIC DE KESEL: “We have defined three pillars for the 'WeCare Roadmap': 'Green mindset', 'Responsible relationships' and 'Ethical business'. According to the relevance analysis we have carried out, these are the most important topics that pose risks and opportunities for Mölnlycke and its stakeholders. When we fully focused on sustainable thinking and acting, we also opted for an inclusive mindset. In our experience, integration, i.e. the anchoring of all three pillars in all functions and business areas of the company, is the key to innovation and high effectiveness. The close integration of sustainability work with all business areas enables us to identify, measure and react to possible challenges at an early stage. It is important for Mölnlycke to constantly measure and improve its own sustainability approach.”
"The goal is to make Mölnlycke a global leader in sustainable healthcare."Eric De Kesel, COO & EVP Sustainability, Mölnlycke Health Care AB
Mölnlycke makes disposable medical products - does that go hand in hand with sustainability?
ERIC DE KESEL: “Mölnlycke does not compromise on the safety and quality of its products, our promise is to be a premium supplier. At the same time, we strive to offer our customers solutions with the smallest possible ecological footprint. Finding the right balance is not always easy. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is our main approach to sustainability in product development. The assessment helps us ensure that careful use of natural resources and the environment is the foundation of Mölnlycke's sustainable business growth and supports Mölnlycke's commitment to meet our customers' growing needs for sustainable products while ensuring patient safety . Reusable products are not always the best option due to high resource consumption and should be studied on a case-by-case basis considering the impact on the entire value chain.
At Mölnlycke, we have been working to phase out the use of fossil-based materials in our products for some time. One example is our ISCC-certified surgical drapes, which are made with bio-based raw materials, thus helping to effectively reduce CO2 emissions compared to similar products with the same function. By the way, we are a pioneer in this. ISCC certification also ensures full traceability of materials. Another example is a post-operative wound dressing that can remain on surgical wounds for up to seven days. This significant reduction in dressing changes compared to traditional dressings helps reduce material usage and dressing costs, while also helping to reduce the risk of wound infection.”
Global zero balance is your goal. How far is Mölnlycke with renewable energy in terms of sustainable growth?
ERIC DE KESEL: “By the end of 2024, we plan to obtain 100 percent electricity from fossil-free sources at all of our locations worldwide. We already have a cumulative share of up to 57 percent fossil-free electricity at our production sites. An example: Since the beginning of 2020, the electricity at our plant in Finland has been 100 percent carbon-free. The energy that powers the production facilities, lighting, cooling and waste systems there comes from a combination of wind, solar and hydropower. We are working with ENGIE Impact, the sustainability advisory arm of the world's leading low-carbon energy and services company, to achieve our global net-zero goal – from strategy to execution.”
All ethical behavior includes a willingness to help. How does Mölnlycke live this code?
ERIC DE KESEL: “We are committed to acting in a socially responsible manner that will benefit our customers, patients and society in the long term. We are aware of our responsibility and want to exert a lasting positive influence. We support medical charities that can deliver credible and measurable results and are consistent with our ethical guidelines. With 'Operation Smile' we support a global non-profit charity that provides free and safe surgery for children with cleft lip and palate. In addition to donations in kind, we also support 'Operation Smile' with volunteers and train medical professionals in infection prevention. In autumn 2023 we want to open a competence center for cleft treatments together with 'Operation Smile' in the Philippine city of Cebu. We also work with 'Debra International' - a network dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with the rare genetic skin disease Epidermolysis bullosa (EB), also known as 'butterfly disease'. The adhesive plasters that we developed specifically for this disease are considered the gold standard in treatment worldwide.”
Do you have a Mölnlycke-style “tool kit” to help companies transform key business areas in a sustainable manner beyond legal requirements?
ERIC DE KESEL: “It would be wonderful if there was such a fixed 'kit'. But every path of transformation is different, depending on the company and the regulations of the country in which it is based. ESG, whose components – environmental, social, governance – are still being developed, illustrates how broad the topic of sustainability should be. Mölnlycke is aware of its responsibilities - this is a good place to start the journey. We recognize the central role of social responsibility and involve our employees in a targeted manner. Instead of applying a rigid 'tool kit', companies should take action and boldly take appropriate action. Even if you fail, the lessons can be used to correct your ESG path.”
How does Mölnlycke motivate its employees to act sustainably?
ERIC DE KESEL: “In our company, the employees are really very motivated to work sustainably of their own accord. We are passionate about creating a world-class workplace where ethical behavior is paramount. In doing so, we actively promote awareness of integrity and encourage our employees to freely express their opinions. Because we are firmly convinced that promoting diversity not only teaches tolerance for individual differences, but also helps to promote innovative thinking. To support this, we offer our employees comprehensive support, including regular meetings, learning and leadership programs and training. Overall, this creates a snowball effect in which ethical behavior attracts even more ethical behavior.”
“Ethical behavior attracts ethical behavior.”Eric De Kesel, COO & EVP Sustainability, Mölnlycke Health Care AB
Does this also apply to partners and suppliers?
ERIC DE KESEL: Absolutely. Mölnlycke expects its partners to act equally responsibly and ethically. We promote and demand the values of our corporate culture, such as fairness and transparency, from our suppliers and ask them to also promote this with their own partners and suppliers. The company's Supplier Code of Conduct aims to ensure responsible business practices and respect for human rights in the supply chain. Compliance with these principles is an important factor when selecting suppliers and business partners. When concerns are raised, we work with the partner to investigate these issues and, if necessary, encourage the development of higher standards. If the partner does not change his behavior, Mölnlycke will refrain from working with him whenever possible. Mölnlycke continuously monitors its efforts to meet its own standards and the needs and expectations of its customers and stakeholders and reports annually on its progress to the UN Global Compact. All reporting, including disclosures of information about human rights, connected communities, labor conditions, discrimination and harassment at our operations, and modern slavery at the company level, is done in accordance with local requirements for reporting non-financial information.”
How does Mölnlycke organize its talent management and do you notice a shortage of skilled workers like in Germany?
ERIC DE KESEL: “The shortage of skilled workers is not as noticeable at Mölnlycke as elsewhere. A good 70 percent of our managers have developed in our company, so they are insiders, which we encourage very much. Mölnlycke owes its appeal to the purpose we stand for. Our product portfolio and research bring positive benefits by improving the lives of many people. This sense of purpose gives us a certain reputation, which is further reinforced by our sustainability profile, which is very attractive to existing and potential employees. In this way we minimize the turnover of talent, although we do not have any targeted programs to attract talent.”
Thank you very much for the interview, Mr. De Kesel!
Mölnlycke is a global leader in medical products and healthcare solutions. The core business lies in the four business areas of wound care, operating room solutions (ORS), disposable gloves and antiseptics.
Mölnlycke employs around 8.700 people and operates in more than 100 countries worldwide. The head office is in Gothenburg, Sweden. Mölnlycke is owned by Patricia Industries, part of the investment company and industrial holding company Investor AB (founded by the Wallenberg family in 1916), www.molnlycke.com
Eric De Kesel:
(born 1965) has held managerial positions at Mölnlycke Health Care since 2002. As Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Executive Vice President (EVP) Sustainability, the native Belgian is responsible for the development and implementation of the sustainability strategy at Mölnlycke Health Care
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