While carbon neutrality is a new goal for many in the plastics supply chain, Eindhoven, Netherlands-based mould maker IGS GeboJagema reached that milestone in 2019.
Now the company is working on ways to further minimise its CO2 footprint.
"We call ourselves carbon neutral because whatever we produce, we offset it with other measures," said Ron Cisliek, director of business development for the company's U.S. operations.
IGS GeboJagema primarily serves health care companies such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson. Sustainability is a priority for those customers, and many of them have specific carbon-neutrality goals and initiatives.
While IGS GeboJagema says it is carbon neutral, that does not mean the company does not emit any CO2. It means that the Dutch company takes steps to reduce its emissions as much as possible, while also offsetting its carbon footprint.
To start, the company focused on being carbon neutral as much as possible in the factory. For example, it converted a lot of its vehicles to battery power to make transportation more eco-friendly. It also had a doctoral student investigate how to further reduce the company's energy use.
"We've grown the business from 10 million to 50 million [euros] in 10 years' time and still have the same usage of kilowatts," said Hans Arts, head of sales and marking at IGS GeboJagema. "Which means that all the investments were all focused on eco-friendly machines. So instead of just buying machines because we need more capacity, we buy machines … [that] use less power than the previous ones."
Other changes included replacing the lights in the 900,000-square-foot factory with energy-efficient alternatives.
The company also cut back on travel, replacing in-person visits with virtual meetings, when that makes sense. Air travel accounted for 51 percent of the company's travel-related emissions in 2019. But with the pandemic, like other companies, IGS GeboJagema officials discovered that many meetings that it previously did in person could actually be done online. For meetings that are harder to replace with a typical Zoom call, like tool validations or technical after-sales support, IGS GeboJagema offers customers a virtual reality option.
The company uses a Microsoft HoloLens 2, a "mixed reality" that features a full HD camera and smart microphones that work even in factories. IGS GeboJagema officials said the technology is "as close as one can get to being physically present on site and allows us to view the mold through the eyes of our customer's operator and provide real-time instructions."
Officials emphasised that personal customer support remains critically important, and that they use digital tools when they make sense or when they are requested by customers.