SHL Medical and sustainability

This week we speak to Yves Steffen, Global Sustainability Director at SHL Medical.

Yves talks to us about what scope a company like SHL has for sustainability, tackling the challenge of autoinjectors and a circular economy and what role patients play in driving change.

orange block with graphics and headshot of Yves Stefen

Established in 1989, SHL Medical  is now a world-leading provider of drug delivery solutions who design, develop, and manufacture advanced drug delivery devices such as autoinjectors, pen injectors, and wearable drug delivery systems.

Yves has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 17 years within a broad variety of roles. From starting out at Cilag AG (a Johnson& Johnson company) as a plant engineer, to working at Novartis for 14 years, eventually establishing a devices and packaging commercialisation group first for biosimilars and later for biologics at Novartis. This year Yves joined SHL Medical AG as Global Sustainability Director and is responsible for all sustainability initiatives in the company.

SHL Medical is a world-leading solutions provider in the design, development, and manufacturing of advanced delivery devices.  What is the scope of sustainability for a company like SHL?

Sustainability has a broad meaning and it goes beyond product and manufacturing. The scope of the ESG strategy of SHL covers 3 main pillars Design, Climate and Social responsibility. Each of the 3 pillars have high level targets set for  2030 including a roadmap what we plan to do to reach the targets. Such as moving to renewable energy sources and design our products for recyclability and less waste and energy consumption in production. Also we are looking in alternative plastic materials in our products which have a reduced GWI (global warming impact) to today used resins. To ensure strong and sustainable growth we are also investing in building up a strong and diverse talent succession program as a key enabler to be fit for the future.

You have recently been appointed into a newly created role as Global Sustainability Director. What is the intent behind this role? Why now?

The intention is to focus and to have dedicated resources to execute on the strategy and make sustainability a function in SHL similar to other departments (e.g. regulatory, QA etc.). Sustainability is seen as mandatory for the future of the business for patients, customers, employees and shareholders. The intention to incorporate “sustainable” thinking across the company so it becomes a culture that is embedded in every process and activity. Why now? – In many way SHL already did a lot in regards of continuously improving their processes to reduce the energy consumption producing devices now is the time to really consolidate all efforts and move to a next level bringing all ideas and people together and to work under one SHL ESG strategy globally. The ESG strategy is also approved and supported by the executives of SHL Medical and the Board.

Sustainability lab footer

The carbon footprint of healthcare is increasingly on the minds of patients; everyone is much more aware of their impact on the environment and we are making more green choices every day. What role do patients play and how are their attitudes and demands set to change?

They play a big role, understanding patients and also customer need as key to develop innovative and sustainable health care solutions. There is an increasing awareness of patient and HCPs focusing on sustainability – drug effectiveness and quality is a given and can no longer be used as excuse to not focus on different areas – core deliverables and where can you make a difference compared to competitors will become more important and the only differentiation factor is no longer “just” the drug. We need to start thinking about how we can deliver health care solutions in a different way.

What are some of the big challenges or barriers you face when pursuing solutions with less impact?

Being in the business of pen and autoinjectors one challenge is the perception of the product as it is made out of plastic. Having the end customer comparing an autoinjector with a pre-filled syringe or a vial injection automatically triggers the thought that the amount of waste has increased. But there are a lot of benefits using an autoinjector allowing for a home use setting to avoid travel and time consuming appointment with HCPs. Nevertheless we need to tackle this issue and allowing a product for circular economy is one key aspect to handle it.

Also regulations are not fully setup yet to enable sustainable solutions that could be implemented and scaled quite easily today – I do hope though that also that will change in the near future as pressure will rise to deliver sustainable solutions to the market.

What are some key enablers or drivers?

SHL sees sustainability as key business drivers in the future – which is a very good baseline to really make an impact. Also sustainability is embedded in the company culture in many areas already which helps to execute on improvement areas identified in a fast way. Looking at the newly announced production facility in Zug (Switzerland) where sustainable design and energy sourcing was a key point in the URS for the new building.

Where do the biggest opportunities lie and how are SHL working on the challenge?

There are many opportunities that we have already identified to improve our environment footprint for the products supplied by SHL. By establishing baseline data from our current production and products we enable to focus on improvements which has the biggest impact on short terms and can set the strategy for long term improvement creating a roadmap that support the 2030 targets. The big challenge lays in regulations and collaboration of our customers as well as our supplier – only by understanding and knowing the full value chain impact of our products we can establish meaningful improvement that help the overall footprint – there is no value in improving “only” our products and leave a bigger footprint overall by not understanding the full impact of our improvements. Also we are continuously striving to make SHL a great place to work to ensure sustainable growth and to be a collaborative partner for our customers and suppliers.

Join us at the same time next week as we share another interview with one of our clients, understanding their challenges and finding out more about our plans towards their sustainability goals. Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter and sign up to our newsletter here to find out more.

KD: Delivering sustainable futures; Designing A Better World.

Find out more?

Get in touch with our Head of Medical, Kerry Briggs.