Sustainable products

Responsibility for our products is at the core of our corporate responsibility. We therefore strive to minimize the impact that our products have on people and the environment during their development, manufacture, and distribution, as well as during and after their use. This includes providing comprehensive information on responsible, safe and proper use of these products. It is, however, also crucial to conserve resources and minimize emissions and waste in our manufacturing processes, as well as to help our customers to do so.

Through our products, we are helping to overcome global challenges such as climate change and energy scarcity. Our Performance Materials portfolio contains numerous examples of such products. Among others, we are developing innovative solutions for energy-saving displays and lighting, as well as materials for the photovoltaics industry.

  • Liquid crystals  (LCs) provide computer monitors and televisions with high picture quality while also consuming little energy. Our materials for PS-VA (polymer-stabilized vertical alignment) technology help to significantly reduce the amount of backlighting needed, which is the largest power consumer in these devices. With the PS-VA technology, displays use 20% less energy than the precursor technology.
  • Under the licristal® brand we have developed energy saving Ultra-Brightness FFS (UB-FFS) technology, which ensures a 15% increase in light transmission in displays. The benefits include less energy consumption and greater design flexibility for product developers (e.g. longer battery life and higher picture resolution).
  • LCs are utilized in smart windows : They allow more solar heat to enter during the winter and less in the summer, thereby improving the energy efficiency of buildings.
  • Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs ) make it possible to produce energy-efficient displays with brilliant colors and sharp picture quality. We have a partnership with Epson, a Japanese printer manufacturer. Our common goal is the mass production of large-area OLED displays using ink-jet printing. During the 2013-2014 period, this partnership made excellent progress. In Japan, the company has installed the world’s first pilot production plant for OLED inks. Several display companies are setting up ink-jet pilot printers to proof mass production concepts for large scale OLED displays.
  • Modern light sources  such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes are key technologies that will make it possible to decrease the energy consumption of lighting.
  • Our printable structuring materials are enabling the photovoltaics  industry to manufacture solar cells in a more environmentally sound way while improving their efficiency. In addition, we are further developing new materials and technologies for new types of solar cells. This includes innovative process materials for upcoming high efficiency silicon-based solar cells and new materials for next generation photovoltaics, such as organic solar cells and dye-sensitized solar cells. These materials will enable flexible, semi-transparent and lightweight solutions significantly broadening the application range of photovoltaics.
  • AZ Electronic Materials has developed products such as PFOS-free antireflective coatings and photoresists that contain not a trace of hazardous chemicals.

The "Displaying Futures " initiative, launched in 2011, creates space for interaction, interdisciplinary exchange and mutual inspiration for display and material producers, designers, architects, artists, scientists and experts from other fields. The aim is to develop scenarios beyond pure technical approaches that show how human needs for communication and mobility are constantly changing, thereby impacting the properties of displays. At the Displaying Futures Symposium in Shanghai, experts answered questions on how display systems impact architecture as well as people’s lives.

In dialogue with our customers from the cosmetics industry, we develop proposals for cosmetic formulations that meet strict sustainability criteria and are in line with the current trend towards more natural cosmetics. Several of our products have been certified by ECOCERT, an independent organization that represents high international standards for environmentally sustainable products, and certifies that raw materials used in cosmetics and food applications are produced in an ecological way. In 2013 and 2014, approximately 40 of our products received this certification, which accounts for about 20% of our pigments and cosmetics portfolio.


The life science business portfolio consists of thousands of products with different characteristics and varying challenges with regard to sustainability. The following examples illustrate how we minimize our products’ impact on people and the environment, and help our customers achieve their own sustainability goals:

  • Our greener solvents  show improvements of certain characteristics over the alternatives commonly used for a given application. These products may be safer, with reduced hazard or lower volatility, or may have reduced environmental impacts, increased biodegradability or be easier to recycle.
  • Our bioethanol offers a non-synthetic alternative to synthetically produced chemicals. Bioethanol was the first greener solvent we made available to customers, and we continue to work to provide additional renewable material-based solvents as well as products with lower toxicity. Production of bioethanol is a less toxic process than typical ethanol manufacturing. Our EMPLURA®  product line of solvents is also being expanded to include products derived from renewable resources such as corn cobs and sugar cane bagasse.
  • The new Extran® AP 33 antifoam agent has the same effectiveness as its predecessor, but we eliminated formaldehyde and nitrilotriacetic acid. Further updated Extran® products (MA05, AP16 and AP17) do not contain nitrilotriacetic acid either.
  • The products we sell are also raw materials that our pharmaceutical customers use in their processes. We recognize that pharmaceuticals in the environment are a concern for our customers, and to help address this, we are focused on improving the bioavailability  of drugs. To further collaborate with our customers and expand our capabilities in bioavailability enhancement, we opened a new R&D Center for Formulation in Darmstadt, Germany. There, we are partnering with the pharmaceutical industry to develop new and innovative materials and delivery systems that better enable them to develop drugs that can be more readily absorbed and thus less excreted.
  • We are also actively working to develop technologies that address global challenges like climate change and energy scarcity. For example, our bench-top Guava HT series flow cytometer is helping to drive biofuel research and development. Our customers use Guava instruments to determine which species will achieve maximum diesel production. Guava instruments are also being used in the production of ethanol from sugar, where they test the viability of bacteria that are used to digest sugars and produce gases that are refined into ethanol.

Sustainability starts at the product development stage

The cornerstone of our products' sustainability lies in the development phase. We have implemented various guidelines such as our Group-wide "Product Safety Chemicals Policy” in order to reduce potentially negative effects. In our Performance Materials business sector, we adhere to the "Halogen-free Policy" of our customers and have implemented the "Green Product Policy". Among other things, this forbids the use of acutely toxic, mutagenic, or otherwise severely hazardous substances that remain present in the end product. We furthermore ensure that our products adhere to national and international regulations such as REACH and RoHS, as well as fulfill other industry- and customer-specific requirements.

In addition, we have developed systems within the company that incorporate sustainability criteria into the product development process. In our chemicals business, the Accolade project management system provides researchers with a "tool box" for the entire product life cycle.

Accolade addresses issues relating to technology, quality, regulatory requirements, and patents, enabling researchers and product developers to compare and make decisions on uniform criteria to improve the sustainability of products.

At the life science business, our Design for Sustainability  (DfS) program is integrated within the product development process. DfS aims to reduce the environmental and health impacts of our products across their entire life cycle, from manufacture to use through to disposal. We strive to maximize performance and ease of use for our customers. Our design teams incorporate sustainability considerations early in the design process. They use a scorecard to assess a product’s main environmental hotspots throughout its entire life cycle, driving improvement across six main focus areas: materials, energy & emissions, waste, water, packaging, and usability & innovation. The life science business uses the DfS criteria to measure progress towards our 2015 product sustainability goal of driving product sustainability improvement in 10% of the product families we offer. 

Design for Sustainability

The life science business has already employed DfS principles in the design of several products. Real life examples show how Design for Sustainability has been put into practice.

  • Clarisolve® Depth Filters, used in cell culture processing, were launched in 2013. With reduced pre-flushing requirements of the product as an important goal of the design, we completed a life cycle assessment to quantify this reduction and other environment-related improvements. The results show that significant progress has been achieved, especially for the use phase of the product. Compared to the alternative product (Millistak+® Pod Depth Filter) used by customers to produce one batch, Clarisolve® is characterized by 63% reduction in use-phase energy consumption, by a 46% reduction in use-phase water consumption (1,800L per batch), and by a 24% reduction in solid waste mass at the user facility.
  • In 2013, the EZ-Fit™ Manifold for laboratory filtration was launched. During the design process, the DfS approach was followed, which improved handling and reduced the environmental impacts compared to its predecessor, the Hydrosol Manifold. The EZ-Fit™ Manifold uses 47% less raw material and its packaging consists of 100% recyclable corrugated board. Because the filtration heads can be easily removed for cleaning, very little space is needed in the autoclave to clean the heads relative to the space needed to clean the whole device. This results in a 91% reduction in autoclave-associated carbon emissions. After the product’s 10 year validated lifetime, it can be easily disassembled, and over 95% of its parts are recyclable.
  • The design of the Snap i.d. 2.0 Protein Detection System reduces waste for the end user and cuts emissions from shipping. We managed to reduce consumable materials by 91%, GHG emissions for distribution in the United States by 99%, weight of packaging per weight of product by 93%, and solid waste mass at user facilities by 99%.

Analysis as a prerequisite for improvement

In order to reduce the unwanted effects of our products, we must understand our products across their life cycle, which is why we perform corresponding analyses. In some cases, we investigate the complete life cycle ("cradle to grave"); in other cases, we focus on parts of the cycle through the "cradle-to-gate" approach, meaning that we analyze the R&D phase of a product up to the point of delivery to the customer. Sometimes we concentrate on particular aspects, such as greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, or packaging. The results of the analyses show us where we have potential for improvement. Our experts from R&D, Product Management, Quality, Procurement, and other units can use these data as a basis to develop specific measures and initiatives across the entire product life cycle; they furthermore engage in an exchange of relevant best practices and ideas. We share the results of our analyses with our customers as well.

We have also calculated the product carbon footprint for pearl-luster pigments and liquid crystal mixtures as well as the product water footprint for liquid crystal mixtures using the “cradle-to-gate” approach. Our customers utilize these data to calculate footprints for their products. Since our performance materials are only present in the end product in minute amounts, our contribution to the end product's footprint is generally very minor.

The life science business conducts several analyses to identify product impacts and to improve the sustainability of its products. For example, a life cycle assessment (LCA) was conducted for the Clarisolve® Depth Filter . Another example is the LCA comparing the Titripac® product delivery system with the 1L polyethylene bottle product delivery system. We calculated the life cycle energy and carbon footprint for both product delivery systems, and the results showed that the Titripac® had substantial benefits over the polyethylene bottles: a 61% reduction in GHG emissions, a 33% reduction in GHG emissions for shipping to U.S. customers, a 42% reduction in packaging material mass, a 91% increase in renewable materials, and a 73% reduction in solid waste.

We also conducted an LCA comparing the 200L ReCycler® product delivery system and the 4L glass bottle product delivery system. The study showed that the ReCycler® product delivery system has significant benefits over the glass bottles: a 69% reduction in life cycle GHG emissions, a 77% reduction in life cycle energy demand, a 53% reduction in packaging-to-product weight ratio, 46% increase in cube utilization, and a 99% reduction in mass of packaging solid waste.


In 2013 and 2014, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany received awards for its innovative products. In 2013, the company received the Inter Solar Award in San Francisco (CA, USA) for the isishape Selective Emitter Process and in Paris (France) for the isishape SolarEtch product line, both efficiency-gaining and environmentally sustainable concepts. In 2014, we also received the Meyer-Galow Prize for business chemistry for the "Energy-efficient liquid crystals for smartphones and tablets" project, for its contribution to advancements in smartphone and tablet PC displays.

Additionally, the life science business received two R&D Magazine 100 Awards for innovative products released to market in 2013. The 52nd Annual R&D Awards recognize the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace over the past year. The products that were recognized are the SmartFlare™ detection reagent and the Clarisolve® Depth Filters.

The life science business was also awarded the “Greenest Life Science Company” in November 2014 at the bi-annual Life Science Industry Awards® (LSIA). The LSIA recognizes the best-in-class life science suppliers across 28 product, communications and support categories. Over 5,000 individual scientists from 76 countries selected our life science business as the “Greenest Life Science Company”.

Goals: Sustainable products














Status in 2013 and 2014


Improve the product sustainability in 10% of the product families of the life science business

Implement the Design for Sustainability program.

End of 2015

Within the Design for Sustainability process we defined several criteria for ensuring product sustainability in each of the following areas: materials, emissions and energy, waste, water, packaging, and usability and innovation. We use these criteria to assess improvement in product sustainability.

By the end of 2014, we had improved sustainability across more than 12% of our product families, which means we've already reached our goal.

Legend: Achieved In progress Not achieved New goal


Publication of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

In the United States and Canada the subsidiaries of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany operate under the umbrella brand EMD.

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