Life Technologies Digs Deeper with 2nd CSR Report

Life Technologies Digs Deeper with 2nd CSR Report

Biotech firm Life Technologies this week released its second CSR report, digging in deep to operations and performance data to assess its progress on achieving sustainability goals.

The report covers the first full year of operations for the company -- which was formed as the result of a merger between Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems -- and is the company's first GRI-compliant CSR report. Life's first CSR report, while not GRI-compliant, laid the groundwork for this year's deeper-dive report.

"With the first report, we created a platofrm to show the C-suite that there is some value in being transparent, in showing what we do," Cristina Amorim, Life Technologies' Vice President of Global Citizenship explained in an interview. "It drives employee engagement, investors will look at it -- and you need it to get listed on Dow Jones [Sustainability Index] or FTSE."

Invitrogen was named to the DJSI in 2008, and Life Technologies was named to the FTSE4Good Index Series in March 2009. The new report features product-level information on the company's development, manufacturing and distribution processes, including Life's product stewardship program and the Design for Environment principles that the company has incorporated.

Life Technologies provides research materials to governments, pharmaceutical firms and academic institutions to aid in their biotechnology research. Among the initiatives the company recently included in its "Re:sponsibility Program" is the ability to let customers choose to receive products shipped at room temperatures rather than frozen, a move that eliminates over 100,000 styrofoam coolers and 500,000 pounds of dry ice per year. The company is also redesigning instruments and products to use less energy, fewer hazardous materials and create less waste.

The process of creating its first CSR report revealed where the company had gaps in its data and the goals it had set, and the second report aimed to fill those gaps. "We can see that in some areas we're doing really well - we're way over our targets for our safety goals, as well as water and energy," Amorim said. "But some areas we look and see that there's a lot more work to be done ... and even some areas that we weren't able to collect all the data. So to that end we use the GRI as the guidelines for what areas we should be looking at."

Between 2008 and 2009, Life Technologies cut its energy use, normalized to revenue, by 5 percent, hitting 30 tons per million dollars of sales; the company has set a target of 25 percent reduction by 2012. Similarly, the firm saw a 6 percent drop in normalized energy use, and a 19 percent drop in normalized water use.

The water use in particular was a crowning achievement in water-scarce San Diego County, Amorim said. The company achieved it in part through a partnership with the San Diego Water Authority, where Authority engineers inspected Life's facilities, and together the two organizations figured out where water savings could be achieved.

"It was really brilliant to have that level of engagement with the government," Amorim said, "because they become your friends, they're almost a part of you. And they also know all the companies that are doing similar work, and they can become the glue for networking and benchmarking."

All told, Life Technologies' conservation initiatives will save the company about $4 million in costs every year, with more on the way as the company moves closer to its goals.

But Amorim said that the process of developing its GRI-compliant report also became a sort of end in itself.

"The beauty of transparency is that you can find areas you can celebrate, and find areas wehre you need to put more muscle behind and do a better job," she said. "That the ultimate achievement, and in many ways transparency drives performance: You become so much more accountable because it's all out there."

The full report is available for download at LifeTechnologies.com.