Making important progress in the sustainability of bioprocessing only arises when a company makes a concerted effort. And that’s just what Genentech is doing. By 2025, the company plans to reduce plastic waste by 10%, increase recycling by 80%, and get 100% of the electricity at its South San Francisco headquarters from sustainable sources. For the sustainable electricity goal, Genentech reached that one last year.
As Kristi Budzinski, sustainable science program manager at Genentech, which is a member of the Roche Group, explains, “We’re looking at the impact of climate change and how are we going to contribute to keeping the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” which is the recommendation from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
As shown by Genentech’s use of sustainable electricity, including the largest solar installation on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula, the company focuses on energy. As Budzinski says, “The first principle is to reduce energy consumption, where you can create efficiency and get your energy consumption down as low as possible.”
By 2029, Genentech plans on a 75% reduction of scope-one and -two emissions—those from energy sources controlled by the company and from purchased energy, respectively.
Addressing the single-use technology trend
In bioprocessing, one trend that doesn’t seem so sustainable is single-use technology, but that’s where the industry appears to be headed. According to Genentech, though, this transition will increase the company’s sustainability.
“A life cycle assessment (LCA) has told us that single-use methods are way more efficient for us—a 15–20% reduction in our carbon footprint,” Budzinski notes. “That’s mostly due to the fact that we don’t have to clean a large stainless-steel tank.”
That cleaning requires water in multiples of a tank’s volume, and the water must be pure, heated for cleaning, and then cooled before disposal. Plus, the process requires various cleaning chemicals.
“Moving to single-use removes that cleaning piece, and therefore, lowers your carbon impact,” Budzinski underscores.
The fully closed single-use processes add other green benefits, such as a reduction in HVAC needs. Budzinski and her colleagues are even working with suppliers to make the single-use bags more sustainable, possibly recyclable.
For Budzinski, one of Genentech’s most exciting new approaches to sustainability is its product stewardship performance tool. With this, she says, “we’re looking at environmental impact across the product lifecycle.” By implementing this tool, Budzinski points out that different departments, such as R&D and manufacturing, must communicate more.
“A lot of sustainability is just making sure people are talking to each other and always iterating on their processes,” she says.
Many improvements in sustainability can make a bioprocessor more profitable, and that’s how many companies look at things like reducing energy, but there’s more.
“We don’t just talk about how much money we save,” Budzinski says. “We talk about how much carbon we save, how much water we save, and how much those savings ultimately benefit employees, communities, and patients. [By doing that, she says,] we’re actually having a bigger impact, and we’re not just saving money.”
A bioprocessor’s approach to sustainability doesn’t start or stop on the production line. It impacts suppliers and customers, the oceans and air, and more—an entire ecosystem of bioprocessing and beyond. Being sustainable for more than profit even impacts the attitudes of employees. “It’s really nice to see the company support this bigger view of cost,” she tells GEN.