Michael Hegglin is head of the Sustainability Department at Swiss firm SkyCell. As an environmental scientist with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Swiss university ETH Zurich, he is convinced that companies play an important role in reducing environmental pollution. At SkyCell, he works on developing and implementing sustainable solutions that contribute towards improving sustainability in the pharmaceutical industry. We interviewed him about the company’s sustainability journey and the collaboration with EcoVadis.
Please tell us a little bit about SkyCell and the areas in which the company operates.
SkyCell was founded in 2012 with the vision of converting recycled PET, which is a waste product, into high-quality insulation. The company and the first pharmaceutical containers arose from this concept. However, it was clear to us from the first life cycle assessments that we should not be focusing primarily on optimizing production and materials from an environmental point of view, but that our focus should above all be on emissions over the entire life cycle. The greatest leverage that we have is in reducing transport emissions. This means that we need to reduce the weight of our pharmaceutical containers and maximize the volume yield at the same time, even if this may result in higher emissions in production.
Following continuous optimization of our products, the implementation of a sustainability system across the entire company was next on the agenda. This includes steps such as a materiality analysis, setting out targets such as science-based targets, implementing measures, reporting, and the assessment by EcoVadis.
The Swiss company SkyCell offers forward-looking solutions for pharmaceutical companies to improve their supply chain and transport sensitive drugs safely by air. © SkyCell, 2023.
SkyCell took the initiative in undergoing an assessment by EcoVadis, and was awarded the Gold medal this year for the second time. What prompted the company to undergo a rating?
We decided on EcoVadis as this rating has a major status in our industry. Some pharmaceutical firms only work with suppliers that are rated by EcoVadis. We receive bonus points when it comes to tenders involving freight forwarders, and investors also recognize the rating as a seal of quality. The ESG jungle can sometimes lack transparency, and the EcoVadis Rating also gives us credibility here when it comes to our performance and unique selling points in the area of sustainability.
What were SkyCell’s experiences with the rating process?
There was quite a lot of effort involved in the first EcoVadis Rating. First of all, we had to become acquainted with the EcoVadis requirements and find out which documents can be submitted as evidence. It was also important for us to include our internal stakeholder groups and keep them informed. It was crucial for different departments such as Human Resources, Compliance, Purchasing, Production, and Finance to be involved in the process and for them to understand the procedure.
In general, the first assessment showed us in particular that we can formalize our existing commitment to sustainability to a greater extent and improve our sustainability system even further. Nevertheless, we were still very pleased to achieve a Gold medal at the first attempt and to have confirmation that we are on the right track.
What added value and benefits does your company gain from the EcoVadis Rating?
The EcoVadis Rating provides various benefits to us: The process supports me as sustainability manager in establishing sustainability management and developing it further. The scorecard and the resources available on the platform provide policies and further guidance to me as sustainability manager on structuring a good sustainability management system. The rating also helps us internally when it comes to communication. We have employees all over the world, and it isn’t always easy for them to understand sustainability efforts and make comparisons with other companies. EcoVadis helps us make this assessment. The rating also allows us to provide credible evidence of our performance to our customers and investors. Any company can say they are sustainable, but only a few of them have a Gold medal from EcoVadis.
Sustainability is becoming more and more important – from carbon footprint to employer branding – how is SkyCell exploiting this potential?
In both cases – as well as in many others. Using data, software, and special containers allows us to reduce the risk of delivery problems to less than 0.1%. At the same time, SkyCell also plays an active role in protecting the environment by reducing CO2 emissions for drug shipments by up to 50%.
The EcoVadis Rating also plays an important role in attracting talent and motivating our employees internally. And demonstrating our commitment and our performance is an important factor in attracting qualified professionals who share our values and want to show their commitment to sustainability. The rating also supports motivation internally as it demonstrates to employees that their contribution to sustainability is recognized and appreciated. We see sustainability as a holistic issue that affects all areas of the business, and is also supported and sustained at all levels.
Do you also make use of your rating externally?
Definitely, and in a range of different ways. On the one hand, we use it in our advertisements for customers to showcase our commitment to sustainability. This enables us to demonstrate that we are a responsible company. We also use it in our marketing to position ourselves as a sustainable company. It helps us get our message to the outside world and raise awareness of our sustainability initiatives, and also drive sustainable innovations.
What are the next steps that SkyCell is aiming to achieve?
We are focused on innovation and sustainability and have been awarded an excellent rating. Regulatory requirements as well as those from the customer space are also increasing at the same time, and we are striving to maintain our position and performance in the future. Our next objective now is to focus on measures that have the maximum possible impact on sustainability. This includes optimizing our collaboration with suppliers in the area of sustainable procurement, and EcoVadis has demonstrated the potential and importance of this to us.
SkyCell started formalizing sustainability activities and measures in 2020, and achieved Gold status in its first attempt at an EcoVadis Assessment. Continuous improvement in sustainability of business activities and management processes forms part of the company’s strategy. © SkyCell, 2023.
We have developed a structured and tangible roadmap that continues to focus on innovation and sustainability, and which enables us to position ourselves as a reliable partner to our customers in the chemical/pharmaceutical industry over the long term.
You have been key in driving the development and expansion of the sustainability management system at SkyCell. What advice would you give to other sustainability managers who are just starting this process?
It is important for company management to support this focus on sustainability. The first thing we need therefore is approval and support from management. This support makes it easier to redesign certain processes and obtain the required resources. It is also important to ensure that the benefits and process are clearly communicated internally and to collaborate internally across different departments. Sustainability is a cross-departmental issue that affects the entire company. The EcoVadis Rating was a step in bringing everyone together to discuss and share ideas and to walk through the assessment process together, and also to capture the status quo. It has been worth the effort and provided a lot of added value.
We are about to undergo our third assessment. The effort required for the first assessment in engaging stakeholders, collecting documents, and discussing and sharing ideas was relatively high.
The process for the second assessment was much quicker as most of the documents were still valid and we already knew the process. I expect that even less time and effort will be required for our third rating.
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