Bayer recently constructed a bioswale on its campus in West Berkeley — a gently sloped landscaped area that slows stormwater runoff while removing debris and helping recharge groundwater. Credit: Bayer

“Close the freezer door!” 

Today, a team at Bayer’s Berkeley campus is taking that household lament to another level. They are inventorying every freezer on the 46-acre site to determine which ones need a tune-up and which ones they can shut down.

The types of medication and therapies Bayer makes on the Berkeley campus require some materials to be stored at very cold temperatures. 

“We use a lot of freezer space,” said Greg Parry, director of Formulation and Device Management and a member of Bayer Berkeley’s new Sustainability Council. “It takes an incredible amount of energy to run all of these freezers.”

Bayer has more than 100 freezers at the Berkeley campus, many of which are much larger and far colder, -70 to -160 degrees, than the average kitchen freezer.

Greg Parry. Credit: Bayer

“We’ve been going through and cleaning out product testing samples that are no longer needed so we can reduce the number of freezers we operate,” Parry said. “We’re also making sure the ones that are running are as efficient as possible. Longer term, we are trying to develop products that don’t need the use of freezers or, if they do, don’t require such low temperatures.”

Launched in late 2021, the Sustainability Council at Bayer’s 1,000+ person West Berkeley campus includes representatives from nearly every department. This 15-person group  is charged with identifying opportunities to be more environmentally friendly across operations. It is one of many initiatives the company is making as part of its commitment to becoming climate neutral by 2030, efforts that the independent Science Based Targets initiative, or SBTi, has said meet the highest standards of the Paris Climate Agreement.

With its efforts, Bayer is part of a global corporate movement to improve sustainability measures throughout the supply chain of raw materials and equipment needed to produce medicines at the site. Taking action on climate change is a critical component of the United Nations’ 2030 agenda for sustainable development, and a growing number of companies are adopting policies and programs explicitly designed to address climate change. By the end of 2021, more than 2,200 companies worldwide — more than a third of the global economy’s market capitalization — were working with the SBTi.

Regina Donaldson. Credit: Bayer

Regina Donaldson, director of central utilities at Bayer — and sponsor of the Sustainability Council — said, “Making vital medications for people with serious medical conditions can be a resource-intensive endeavor. We are lucky to have people here who care about meeting patient needs — while trying to minimize the impact on our environment.”

In another Sustainability Council effort, Bayer has partnered with Oakland-based Bio-Link Depot Inc., a nonprofit that accepts donations of laboratory equipment and other supplies and distributes them to underserved STEM education programs across the Bay Area at no cost. 

Bayer’s Berkeley campus also is working to reduce waste from shipping products domestically. Traditionally, when companies ship something in a cardboard box, the responsibility for its disposal lies with the recipient.

At Berkeley, Bayer is implementing a reusable shipping program designed to ensure transport packaging is handled as sustainably as possible. Before product leaves the campus, it is placed in specially designed containers with gel packs that keep it cool during transit. Once the shipment arrives at its destination, the recipient has instructions on how to return the container to be reconditioned and put back into use.

AmyLyn Villanueva. Credit: Bayer

“We’re also working to move to more sustainable packaging for our longer-haul shipments,” said AmyLyn Villanueva, Bayer’s interim supply chain purchasing and export manager who also serves on the Sustainability Council. “Right now, we use an ‘active container’ that has a large battery pack that allows the box to be heated and cooled, but it needs to be charged and plugged in when the charge is low. We’re moving toward a ‘passive container’ in roughly a cube 4 feet in height. Reducing the size and weight will reduce the environmental impact.”

One of the most exciting aspects of the Sustainability Council, Villanueva said, is seeing more and more people share their ideas.

“The entire team has been really receptive, collaborative and energized by seeing the momentum regarding sustainability,” she said. “Some of our global colleagues in warehouse and transportation have reached out, too, to share ideas. It’s something that the whole supply chain group is really passionate about.”