May 5, 2022

Celebrating Earth Day at Our Fifth Annual Sustainability Reception

Bob Cappadona, president and CEO of environmental solutions and services at  Veolia North America, shared how his company recycled 1,500 wind turbine blades into materials for making cement, which was an industry first.

This April, we celebrated all things green at our fifth annual Earth Day Sustainability Reception at our headquarters in San Diego. Nearly 150 members and life science professionals attended the keynote presentation and panel discussion on why life science companies need to include sustainability as part of their mission and operations. Attendees also had a chance to network with other sustainability advocates while seeing the latest in green products and services for life science companies.

The keynote presentation featured Bob Cappadona, president and CEO of environmental solutions and services at Veolia North America, and the panel included three leaders in sustainability in life science: Rachael Relph, chief sustainability officer at My Green Lab; Merete Miles, senior director of environmental sustainability at Thermo Fisher Scientific; and Christine Gallup, communications manager at Genomatica.

Cappadona said that sustainability is an integral part of Veolia’s business model, and he shared examples on how the global company—which specializes in waste and water management, as well as energy—innovated in recycling. Veolia was approached by GE to recycle wind turbine blades (each one can weigh 7 tons) and found a way to repurpose the blades into raw materials that can be used for making cement. The program has since kept 1,500 wind turbines out of landfills. Cappadona noted they initially weren’t sure if the project could be accomplished, but they viewed the challenge as a chance to innovate and benefit their long-term sustainability goals. “We are a for-profit company, but the things that drive us to do what we do every day are based on Earth Day,” he said. During the panel discussion, Miles shared with the audience new recyclable paper coolers Thermo Fisher Scientific developed for cold-chain shipments. Traditionally, polystyrene (EPS) foam coolers are used to transport materials that need to be kept at low temperatures, but customers started asking about more sustainable packaging, Miles said. These inquiries led the company to develop the package—which itself is an innovation—replacing roughly 1 million foam coolers. “In the past, sustainability was a nice thing to have. We’re starting to see a shift where our customers are asking for specific commitments,” Miles said.

We are a for-profit company, but the things that drive us to do what we do every day are based on Earth Day.

Relph, who moderated the panel, said Thermo Fisher Scientific’s development of the new paper cooler illustrates how sustainability is not a hindrance to innovation, and that companies can benefit from asking their suppliers similar questions about their practices and products. “Buy from those companies that align with what you’re looking for,” she said. “Tell them sustainability is important to you, and that it’s something you’d like to see in their products.”

Genomatica developed a renewable form of nylon that isn’t derived from fossil fuels. Its nylon 6,6 products are now used in the automotive and electronics industries, and Gallup said the company is also developing a plant-based nylon for athleisure giant Lululemon. She added that not only are consumers and clients wanting more sustainable products, but the emerging talent pool, especially Generation Z, want to work for companies that prioritize sustainability and are “walking the talk.”

Gallup concurred that being inquisitive can be the start to innovation and in companies achieving their sustainability goals. “Great science is driven by great questions. Continue to be curious, that is what drives change,” Gallup said.

If you missed the event, you can view a recording of the keynote presentation and panel discussion here.