Understanding sustainability and the role glove manufactures should have

Published: 15-Jan-2024

Environmental consciousness and sustainable practices have come to represent a growing and important aspect of doing business across industries, including the healthcare, medical devices and life science sector

These industries are adopting strategies to enable forward-thinking efforts and initiatives to ensure that they can reduce their environmental impact and meet societal goals for sustainability and transparency.

What is sustainability today?

While the word “Sustainability” is commonly used in relation to the environment, the United Nations definition, “Meeting the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” speaks to a much broader concept. Sustainability is about creating meaningful economic, environmental and social value, today and in the future. Healthcare has a direct role in sustainability, referenced by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3: “Good health and wellbeing.” The challenge for the healthcare industry is to achieve this goal while also having a positive impact on the other goals for people and the environment.

The significance of sustainable practice in making medical devices and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Shining a light on the manufacture of medical devices and PPE reveals the significance of thinking about sustainability. The healthcare and life science sectors currently consume a large number of single-use products every day. This makes these sectors intensive consumers of energy and resources and currently leads to significant quantities of waste. Some consumption is essential, for example surgical, examination and PPE gloves are integral to hygiene and infection and contamination control. Glove manufacture is currently energy and water intensive. But with ambitious and action-oriented goals, glove manufacture can be decoupled from resource constraints and aligned with the low carbon economy.

Taking measurable action toward sustainability

Companies like Mölnlycke Health Care, a leading global provider of high-quality healthcare solutions, have recognised the urgency of embracing sustainability and have made it a core component of their strategy. Sustainability for Mölnlycke comprises three focus areas: adopting a green mindset, including embracing the UN Paris Agreement objectives to reduce the effects of climate change; creating and maintaining value adding responsible relationships with all stakeholders from customers, to patients, employees to suppliers; and conducting business in an ethical and compliant manner. 1

Mölnlycke has recognised the opportunity to secure its future growth and competitiveness through the transition to a low-carbon economy and therefore measures its GHG emissions across its entire value chain (Scope 1, 2 and 3). Mölnlycke has committed to a reduction in its absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 50% by 2030, compared to the 2016 baseline, supported by a transition to 100% fossil-free electricity by end of 2024 and continuous absolute energy consumption year-on-year reduction as well as fossil-free heat sources transaction. As Scope 3 GHG emissions cover more than 80% of its total emissions, the company has also set targets on its indirect activities, such as purchased goods and services, transportation, application and use of our products, and end-of-life. These targets have been submitted to the Science Based Targets initiative for validation mid June this year. 1

Working together to optimise gloves’ environmental performance

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) shapes the company’s main approach to sustainability in product development. In 2022 a full third party verified Life Cycle Assessment for the Biogel surgical glove range 2 showed that nearly half of the global warming potential of a pair of Biogel gloves comes from Mölnlycke’s own manufacturing. Therefore, a key aspect of Mölnlycke's sustainability drive is making progress on energy intensity and kind, water management, waste and hazardous substance reduction and efficient manufacturing processes during the entire gloves production. 1

By replacing fossil or virgin raw materials with safe materials from renewable, recycled sources Mölnlcyke is further reducing the environmental impact of its glove production and contributes to the preservation of natural resources. In the construction of the new gloves plant, inaugurated in September 2022, Mölnlycke has embedded sustainability through decision guiding principles, including optimisation of energy and water consumption measures. 1 Optimised operations, smarter equipment and buildings can also contribute to improved employees’ safety and well-being.

At the other end of the life cycle, Mölnlycke has implemented rigorous waste management strategies in its manufacturing processes. The company has a zero waste-to-landfill target for all production to achieve by 2030. The production waste management programme aims to avoid the creation of waste in the first place while at the same time minimising waste to landfill by maximising reuse and recycling. Beyond Mölnlycke operations, there is a target to provide Mölnlycke-made products in >95% recyclable packaging by 2030 to minimise customer and end-user waste. By optimising production methods and recycling initiatives, Mölnlycke can help reduce the overall GHG footprint associated with glove manufacturing and promote the circular economy. 1

At the heart of achieving on these goals is the importance of transparency and collaboration. Engaging with stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and regulatory bodies, fosters a culture of sustainability and more importantly, enables the co-creation of solutions that deliver measurable sustainability improvements throughout the value chain.

Sustainability leadership: More than a buzzword

Mölnlycke’s sustainability vision is to transform its business to become a global leader in sustainable healthcare, while ensuring the highest standards of patient care. 1

Sustainability is a key business driver for the company and integral to its operations and product offering. It is the driver for growth, innovation and productivity and an essential part of Mölnlycke’s employee value proposition. Mölnlycke’s sustainability performance is indipendently verified by business sustainability ratings organisations, such as EcoVadis or CDP, and accredited bodies that certify ISO compliance. 1


1. More details are available on pages 7-18, 34-38, 47, 100 - 147of our Annual Report 2022 molnlycke_annual-report_2022_digital.pdf
2. Ramboll, 2022: Life Cycle Assessment of Surgical Gloves. Third-party review: Miljögiraff AB, 2022

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