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Biogens zero waste Biogens zero waste

The need for better measurement and employee engagement to advance a circular economy: Lessons from Biogen’s “zero waste” journey

The movement toward “zero waste” and circular economy has recently gained traction as an alternative to the dominant “take-make-waste” model of production and as a viable approach for addressing climate change. Business plays a key role in this transition and a growing number of companies are establishing waste reduction goals, such as “zero waste to landfill” as part of their sustainability commitments. This study however, suggests that companies’ efforts presently are inadequate to support such a transition; companies lack effective sustainability indicators to measure progress, identify opportunities, and engage employees. While the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines provide standardized indicators for measuring waste reduction through different methods, most of these measure outputs versus the impacts of source reduction, reuse and remanufacturing. Based on benchmarking data from eight biotech and pharmaceutical companies’ waste reduction performance and in-depth analysis of waste management at Biogen, the study finds that: a) companies rely primarily on recycling and waste-to-energy practices to reduce waste and defer to “zero-waste-to landfill” goals rather than focusing on environmentally preferable methods like source reduction and reuse; b) in lieu of standardized reporting, companies report inconsistent waste data that often lack effective indicators for measuring and promoting source reduction and reuse; c) employee awareness and engagement for advancing “zero waste” and circular economic business practices is undeveloped. The study proposes a model for “Expanded Zero Waste” practice, which includes additional indicators for measuring outcomes and impacts of circular business strategies, where employee engagement is seen as a critical strategy for identifying and implementing innovative sustainability approaches and initiatives.