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Key questions about ESG in the medical device industry: Q&A with GlobalData thematic analyst

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Alexandra Murdoch has been an analyst on the medical devices team since July of 2021. She currently leads the medical themes team, and prior to that she led the wound care management, neurology, diagnostic imaging, and dental therapy areas. Prior to joining GlobalData, Alexandra completed a master’s degree in Health Information Science.

Lara Virrey: What are the most pressing ESG challenges for the medical device industry in 2023?  

Alexandra Murdoch: There are a few ESG challenges within the medical device industry right now, the most pressing being the environmental impact of healthcare as a whole. The medical device industry faces more regulations than many other industries, which can make it difficult to move into different and more sustainable practices. Some of the biggest issues in the medical device industry as they relate to the environment is the amount of waste produced by hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Many medical devices are disposable or have disposable parts, such as sharps, masks, gloves, and more. Hospitals also use so much energy and have the highest energy intensity of any publicly-funded building.

Lara Virrey: What are the most promising technologies that could help the medical device industry deal with its environmental challenges?

Alexandra Murdoch: As previously mentioned, hospitals have the highest energy intensity of any other publicly-funded building, so one technology that would have a significant environmental impact would be renewable energy. If even some hospitals were able to switch to a renewable energy source, that would be an enormously positive change for the medical device industry. Additionally, the use of telehealth and digital health can help reduce the environmental impact. These tools allow healthcare professionals to provide care to patients while minimising resources. They also help prevent unnecessary travel to hospitals and other healthcare facilities, ultimately reducing CO2 emissions, and cloud services can help save materials needed for on-site hardware, potentially reducing CO2 emissions.

Lara Virrey: Who are the biggest innovators in environmental technology in the medical device sector?  

Alexandra Murdoch: Philips is definitely a leading innovator in environmental technology in the medical device industry. Philips is committed to taking climate action in a number of ways, including reducing their CO2 emissions. Additionally, they are aiming to maximise the lifetime of their devices, ultimately eliminating waste. With new devices, they are including sustainability in their innovation process to ensure devices minimise their environmental impact. 

Another environmental innovator is Siemens Healthineers. They have committed to reducing their emissions, and since 2019 they have reduced their emissions by 27%. Some ways they plan to keep reducing their environmental impact include introducing a carbon neutral operation globally, using renewable energy, and reducing car/transit usage.  

Lara Virrey: What are the key areas the medical device sector needs to focus on in addressing social and governance challenges?

Alexandra Murdoch: The key areas that the medical device sector should focus on when it comes to addressing social and governance challenges are corruption and transparency, data security, employee safety, and labor standards. While some of these factors are important in every sector, others will apply especially to medical devices. For example, data security is a key issue right now because we’re in a digital age. Many devices are turning digital, and while this is positive for many reasons, it does pose cybersecurity risks. Medical information can be especially vulnerable to attacks, and can contain personal and health information.

Lara Virrey: Overall, do you think the medical device sector is showing enough commitment to improving its ESG performance?  

Alexandra Murdoch: I think that many companies in the medical device sector are doing what they can to improve their ESG performance. The medical device industry does face more stringent regulations than many other industries, and for that reason they will be slow to change their practices, largely because they have to move slowly to ensure they are acting within the regulations. However, several companies have shown a commitment to bettering their ESG practices and have set more ESG goals for the near future to reach, showing their continued commitment.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.   

GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence uses proprietary data, research, and analysis to provide a forward-looking perspective on the key themes that will shape the future of the world’s largest industries and the organisations within them.