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My thoughts on sustainability – balance, respect and footprint

Svenn Poulsen, Group Vice President Wellspect HealthCare and Chairman of the Board of Directors for Dentsply IH AB.

When I think of sustainability there are three words that stand out – balance, respect and footprint. 

Balance is important - as an individual, an employee and as a company. Our activities should not be at the expense of someone’s health, safety or the planet. I am convinced that if you can balance the environmental impact while retaining social and economic sustainability, you have good foundations to succeed as a company. 

Our responsibility as a company is a principle larger than the company itself. It is about respect for us that are living now, for those that have lived before us and for future generations. We must always remember that we are not alone in this. We as a company take that responsibility, not just because we must, but because we want to. 

We aspire to be a workplace associated with people who are considerate, positive and kind to each other. Our ambition when we develop new products is to make a real difference for the user, while reducing our environmental footprint and production costs. This is, and will continue to be, our greatest challenge within sustainability. 

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Important events

Increased focus on sustainability
Sustainability is an increasingly important aspect of our business. Wellspect intensified the work during 2019 by developing a new sustainability model and implementing a number of activities at our headquarters and production site Mölndal. This work continues during 2020 to integrate the sustainable aspect into everything we do; processes, decision making, follow-up, tools and systems, training etc. We will also involve our production site in Kazan into this work, as well as our subsidiaries in other countries. 
Preparing for a greener LoFric: Production site Mölndal modified its coating process to enable the use of solvents with lower environmental impact and the use of less water and chemicals. The new environmental permit that was approved in 2019 enables the conversion.

Product development: Wellspect launched a new urinary catheter for women; LoFric Elle. This product was developed in collaboration with users and healthcare practitioners, with increased dignity as a key focus point. In all stages of the development process, the product’s environmental footprint was considered, and life cycle analysis was an important tool in the decision-making process. Large parts of the product packaging are for example recyclable. 

Reduced production waste: Wellspect reduced its waste from production, for example in the coating and punching processes, as well as in the packaging of LoFric Sense, LoFric Origo and LoFric HydroKit. This has been achieved through cooperation between Manufacturing, Quality and R&D departments, and by using digital tools and methods from the Lean toolbox. 

CO2: Greenhouse gas emissions deriving from business travels were reduced with 37% by increasing the number of digital meetings, choosing to travel by train more often and with a more restrictive travel policy in general.

Chemicals: During 2019 most of the chemicals used at site Mölndal were reviewed and 138 chemicals were substituted either completely or to a better alternative. 

A greener catheter surface more in balance with nature.

An important part of our continuous work to reduce the environmental impact from our products and processes has been to implement a new coating process for LoFric.

If you are interested in the life cycle assessment study of LoFric, please contact your local representative.

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Identifying potential product improvements with LCA

At Wellspect we use Life Cycle Analysis as a tool to identify which factors within the manufacturing of our products have the highest environmental impact and through that we can identify potential product improvements and “hotspots”.

The LCA process looks at all areas of the production process, from the sourcing of raw materials and manufacturing to distribution and eventually end of life.

POBE – The best possible catheter tube material available today

It was a Life Cycle Assessment made in 1990 which started the journey to a PVC-free assortment. Since 2009 the material in the LoFric catheter tubes is POBE, a Polyolefin Based Elastomer.

The POBE material in the tube contains no PVC or plasticizers and combines very good physical characteristics with an exceptionally good environmental performance.

POBE consists of carbon and hydrogen and the material has a low environmental impact, for example 33% lower environmental load for catheters in POBE compared to polyurethane*.”

Sustainability Banner LoFric

Sustainability strategy

Dentsply IH AB, which includes Dentsply Sirona Implants and Wellspect Healthcare, works for a sustainable society in which a holistic approach where environmental, social and economic aspects are interdependent and crucial to the result. We use our resources effectively and responsibly and work to make a difference for current and future generations. 

As a leading healthcare and dental implant company, we are:

Proactive, in our view of the environment. We take our responsibility seriously and encourage the development and implementation of processes and technologies with as little impact as possible on the environment.  We reduce the environmental impact by using the principles reduce, reuse and recycle. We use life-cycle assessments to reduce the environmental impact of our products.

Caring, when it comes to protecting the health and well-being of our employees. We want our employees to feel safe and happy at work, and to have the opportunity to develop both professionally and as individuals. Our work environment should be characterized by openness and all individuals should be treated equally and with respect.  No employee should suffer from illness or injury because of the work.  We are constantly improving our work environment, both organizationally, socially and physically. 

We comply with all applicable governmental requirements and other commitments that we have made. We run our business from a sustainability perspective and have guidelines in place for the environment, health and safety in all parts of the organization and value chain.  

Committed, to continuous improvement for a sustainable future. Continuous improvement is a must for us to be able to take our corporate responsibility and strengthen our competitiveness. Through open dialogues with our stakeholders, we can understand what expectations we face as a company and how we can develop and improve. We carry out materiality analyzes in order to find out which sustainability aspects should be prioritized. Our processes ensure that we respect human rights and counteract corruption, the same goes for our partners. Our responsibility as a company is about respect for the people who live now, for those who lived before us and for future generations.

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Our focus areas

We are actively working with sustainability in many areas. To help structure and clarify our work, four focus areas were established. Read more:

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Good health and well-being

Contributes to Global Goal 3 “Good health and well-being”, in particular objectives:

  • 3.8 Provide healthcare to everyone who needs it
  • 3.9 Reduce the number of illnesses deaths as a result of harmful chemicals
  • 3.B Support research, development and make vaccines and medicines available to everyone

Contributes to Global Goal 10 “Reduced inequality”, in particular objectives:

  • 10.2 Promote social, economic and political inclusion
  • 10.3 Ensure equal rights for all and eradicate discrimination

Our goal is to make a real difference, every single day. With the help of our products, our users can have a freer, more independent life. Our products contribute to good health and well-being in themselves, while also having high standards for quality and patient safety.

The people who need our services are often affected by neurogenic conditions, such as Spinal Cord Injury, Parkinsons disease, Multipel Scelerosis or Spina Bifida. In addition, we also offer solutions and help for people with functional disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, prostate issues or women who have sustained injury following childbirth. Many of those who are affected feel that their symptoms limit their everyday lives and the stigma surrounding the topic makes it hard to ask for help.

Wellspect’s goal is for more people around the world to get access to our solutions. We are continuously expanding into new markets and use several global communication channels to spread awareness and inform people about our products and services. We initiated ACCT, Advancing Continence Care Together, a global forum which gathers science, industry and healthcare professionals with the aim to share, interact and discuss how to best advance bladder and bowel continence care for the benefit of users around the world.

Read more about ACCT here

As part of our goal to contribute to good health and well-being, we regularly partake in a variety of activities in order to spread our message. We run three blogs in which we share scientific information and user stories , we carry out education through our sales organization and we partake in interviews and newspaper articles with the goal of informing the public about bladder and bowel issues, the solutions, and thereby breaking the stigma to speak about them. 

Another aspect of our work towards better health and well-being is our sponsorships and partnerships. Across our many markets we sponsor different sport events such as wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball. We also support by watching their games, sharing experiences and demonstrating our products. Furthermore, we welcome members from the teams to participate in our development projects when user feedback is needed.

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Safe, committed and inspiring workplace

Contributes to Global Goal 8 “Decent work and economic growth”, in particular objectives:

  • 8.1 Sustainable economic growth
  • 8.5 Full employment and decent work with equal pay

Contributes to Global Goal 9 “Industry, innovation and infrastructure, in particular objectives:

  • 9.2 Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization
  • 9.4 Upgrade all industries and infrastructures for sustainability

Motivation, inspiration & innovation

We are convinced that an atmosphere that motivates and inspires, and where we can challenge each other and explore new ideas, is crucial for developing new innovations. As a company, we take responsibility and we invest in safety, training and well-being for our employees. We care about each other and face our challenges with joy and mutual respect.

Safety first

Safety in the workplace is our highest priority and a key focus point daily. We regularly evaluate data from risk analysis, EHS Rounds (environment, health and safety) and accident and incident reporting, to name a few, to ensure that our workplace is as safe as it possibly can be for our employees. In addition to this, all new managers undergo training in sustainability and work environment, security rounds are carried out on a regular basis and risk assessments are performed in the events of changes to our activities (operations, premises, equipment or working methods).

Wellbeing & respect

We believe an attractive and sustainable workplace is a prerequisite for financial growth. Physical safety is a priority to us, as well as the social work environment and thus one’s individual well-being. As a company, we have a range of activities in place to promote this, such as step count competitions, subsidized massages and healthcare allowances.

Efficiency & compliance

Our production has high resource efficiency, which is a prerequisite for production based in Sweden. We also demand that our suppliers follow our code of conduct (Code of Ethics and Business Conduct), that contains demands on human rights, social conditions, work environment, sustainability and anti-corruption, in addition to applicable legislation.

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Becoming climate neutral

Contributes to Global Goal 9 “Sustainable industries”, in particular objectives:

  • 9.4 Upgrade all industry and infrastructure for increased sustainability
  • 9.5 Enhance research and upgrade industrial technologies

Contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 12 “Responsible consumption and production, in particular objectives:

  • 12.2 Sustainable management and use of natural resources
  • 12.4 Responsible management of chemicals and waste
  • 12.8 Promote universal understanding of sustainable lifestyles

Smaller footprint through mindful steps

We strive to reduce the climate footprint as much as possible and recognize the UN Climate Panel’s leading role in understanding the science and evaluating the effect of climate change. We want our customers, who depend on our products, to know that we are doing everything possible to reduce the climate footprint these products create. We are however still humble to the fact that this task is highly challenging. 

Reducing climate impact

Our goal is to become climate neutral. We map all sources of carbon dioxide emissions, both from direct and indirect sources, and through planned practical measures we aim to gradually reduce our climate impact. The manufacturing and handling of our products are the largest contributors to our climate impact today, and by carrying out detailed life cycle analysis we can find where the greatest issues lie and work on how to improve those.

Conscious choice of materials

We want all new products to be developed with the environment in mind, both the product’s components as well as the manufacturing process. In the future, we want the use of fossil-free materials to be the obvious choice, but right now many of the materials used in today’s products do not have a fossil-free substitute approved for use in medical device products.

Environmental focus 

Throughout 2019, we have focused on how to use less materials, more recyclable materials and in the future, completely new materials, in order to minimize our climate footprint. We have also focused on reducing the amount of solvent used in our production and work actively on replacing chemicals with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
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Sustainable production, throughout the value chain

Contributing to Global Goal 8 “Decent work and economic growth, in particular objectives:

  • 8.4 Improve resource efficiency in consumption and production
  • 8.7 End modern slavery, trafficking and child labor
  • 8.8 Protect labor rights and promote safe working environments

Contributes to Global Goal 12 “Sustainable consumption and production”, in particular objectives:

  • 12.2 Sustainable management and use of natural resources
  • 12.4 Responsible management of chemicals and waste
  • 12.5 Significantly reduce the amount of waste 
  • 12.6 Encourage companies to apply sustainable methods and sustainability reporting

We want our customers to be able to trust that our products are manufactured in a sustainable way, both in our own production processes, as well as at our suppliers’.

Minimize, reduce & recycle

We strive to run a resource efficient operation by minimizing consumption of natural resources, reducing energy use and recycling any remaining materials. Wherever possible, we try to avoid creating waste. In 2019, we updated the life cycle analyzes for our products in order to prioritize the right activities and reduce the environmental impact. Through targeted efforts, with the help of digital technologies, we have been able to decrease the amount of waste in our production significantly.

Waste management & emissions recovery

We have strict policies for chemical- and waste management in place at the production site Mölndal, Sweden, and these were recently implemented in our factory in Kazan, Turkey. In the production of catheters, we need to use solvents, which to a certain extent releases VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). The emissions from these are captured and purified as much as possible. We have two treatment plants – one for VOCs from chlorinated solvents, which uses a carbon filter with a 99% purification rate, and one from non-chlorinated solvents. The VOCs from non-chlorinated solvents are purified by a thermal incinerator, and the purification rate for this is greater than 98%. 

Responsibility throughout the supply chain

We require our suppliers to act in accordance to our core values and fulfill our code of conduct and we are always working on further improving our evaluation and follow-up process. During 2019, we revised our process for evaluation of suppliers and allocated more time for sustainability. We believe in working together with our suppliers and having an open dialogue is important. Only then can we make a real difference and be credible and transparent both up and down our value chain.