Sustainability in Biotech Begins in the Lab. Here’s How We Started Out

Sustainability in Biotech Begins in the Lab. Here’s How We Started Out

Contributor: Matt Kingston

There is a sea change in biotech and all other industries around the world when it comes to sustainability. Only a few short years ago, sustainability was thought of as being too small to worry about, but now it is too big to ignore. Organisations rush to compete and follow suit in the market, making claims of reductions over certain timelines. But these claims must be backed by action, something that organisations everywhere are starting to realise. So where do we start? In a world where instead of increasing profit, we decrease consumption, what strategies can guide us to our goals? What are our first steps? It seems we are all learning as we go.

I’ve had the good fortune of being able to align my personal values with the company that I choose to work for, Future Fields. Bleeding green from an early age, I learned to leave things better than how I found them from various sustainable organisations. The first time I taught Corporate Sustainability at the University of Alberta in 2018, my biggest concern was that nobody would care about the subject. I was delighted to be proven wrong. Over the years I have observed a significant uptick in the number of people and businesses who choose to talk about and take action in the fight to save the planet. This snowball effect is absolutely electrifying, but raises many questions about where we are going, how to get there, and where to start.

Future Fields lab sustainability

In the biotech industry, one of the greatest contributors towards an environmental footprint is the lab. How much energy is required to run that lab? How much single-use plastic is being wasted? How much cell culture waste is being thrown out? In our journey to minimise our lab’s impact on the environment, we came across the organisation My Green Lab (MGL). My Green Lab provided extremely helpful and cost effective resources that help labs start from the ground up, promoting energy efficiency and water efficiency, reducing waste, building sustainable communities and supply chains, and acknowledging sustainable progress. We’ve found their onboarding process and lab certification process to be crystal clear and user-friendly. The feedback and reports from MGL illustrated specific actions that can be taken to address the many parameters in their testing framework.

In an almost prescriptive way, MGL can direct labs on how to become more efficient and produce less waste, which ultimately will save the lab money in the long run. These incremental steps that MGL takes to make the world more sustainable, one lab at a time, does have a compounding effect. By targeting hot spots to mitigate lab energy use and waste, MGL deals with the acute issues of unsustainable lab practices; by promoting and re-educating lab staff, and creating grass-roots green teams at every lab they service, they are dealing with the chronic change management issues of the same. In this regard, MGL acts much like the beach goer, saving starfish as they walk down the beach at low tide. And while there are thousands of starfish on the beach, it still makes a difference when one lands back in the water.

Future Fields sustainability green team

Future Fields Green Team.

MGL not only offers informational resources, but also connects you with other organisations striving to reduce their environmental impact. These commiserate learning opportunities allow the development of a supportive and sustainable community, with the specific intention of helping the planet by helping each other. Competitors in the field put down their arms, like predators and prey at a watering hole, to help the field of sustainability at large. This commitment to sustainability and fostering of community would not be possible without MGL’s steadfast initiatives and unwavering drive towards their mission. In this sense, MGL acts almost as an “institutional entrepreneur; changing the rules of the game for all organisations” inviting entrants into the space and offering a means to achieve a mission within an ordinarily competitive backdrop. [1] The benefits of their shared networks are also enormous. The MGL Ambassadors network allows organisations to present ideas and services to one another, which can help educate and connect sustainability practitioners with appropriate solutions. Their 'Leaders in CSR' network is also an excellent way to learn more about the industry, with members from organisations of all sizes. Both networks are populated with individuals who are more than willing to chat about sustainability, and share triumphs and tribulations, tips and tricks, and advice for overcoming what we are all struggling with right now: where do we go from here?

MGL’s leadership in the sustainability space is evidenced by their commitment to the United Nations Global Compact, the Race to Zero campaign, and their partnership with the United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions Team. We’re excited to see MGL’s growing global reach and other biotech companies join the ranks. Indeed, some of the largest players in the field of biotech and pharma have followed suit, and if momentum continues to grow as it has been already, there is the hope, even the distinct possibility, that this could create a tipping point, changing the unsustainable socio-technical regime of business-as-usual, forever.

In an industry which uses as much energy, resources, and makes as much waste as biotech does, having supports like MGL available helps us all collectively innovate and problem solve, bringing us one step closer to completing our global sustainability mission. We are very fortunate to have an organisation as successful at rallying the troops and spreading information as MGL, who can bring us together and lead the way. I sincerely hope that all science-related organisations seriously consider working with MGL in the future. Even if it just means checking out what they have on tap.

Disclaimer: Future Fields was not sponsored by My Green Lab to write this post. We just love folks who are working towards a better planet.


  1. Hybrid organisations: The next chapter of sustainable business, Nardia Haigh, Andrew J. Hoffman


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