Various industries are increasingly confronted with global challenges such as climate change, scarcity of resources and social inequality – as a result, at the same time, another challenge is increasingly becoming the focus of these industries: sustainability. This discourse is also relevant for medical technology: the integration of sustainability principles into medical technology is both an obligation and an opportunity to drive innovation, increase efficiency and achieve long-term positive effects.

The role of sustainability in medical technology

Legislation on the topic of sustainability is increasing at both European and national level. In Germany, for example, the new Supply Chain Act has already come into force, which initially obliged companies with more than 3,000 employees to demand information from their suppliers on compliance with human rights and environmental standards in purchasing and production. Since 1 January 2024, this regulation is also applicable to companies with at least 1,000 employees. This means that many companies in the medical technology sector that operate as suppliers are indirectly affected by the Supply Chain Act.

Sustainability as a driver of innovation:

Medical technology is traditionally an area characterised by constant innovation and the use of advanced technologies. In this context, sustainability can act as a catalyst for innovation. By researching environmentally friendly materials and production processes, companies can reduce the environmental footprint of their products and at the same time develop new innovative solutions that increase efficiency and reduce costs. For example, the development of reusable or biodegradable medical instruments can help reduce waste while ensuring the safety and effectiveness of medical care.

The basis for the development and market release of medical devices in the European Union is demonstrable compliance with the General Safety and Performance Requirements (GSPR) of the relevant regulation MDR or IVDR defined in Annex I. The integration of sustainability aspects into the verification of compliance with the GSPRs and over the entire life cycle of medical devices is therefore a forward-looking step.

Improving resource efficiency:

Resource efficiency is a key aspect of sustainability in medical technology. Due to limited natural resources and the urgent need to reduce energy consumption, manufacturers are faced with the task of developing and introducing more efficient production methods. This includes the economical use of raw materials and energy during the production process as well as carrying out life cycle analyses for products in order to minimise the overall impact on the environment. By optimising design and production, companies not only promote the longevity and reusability of medical devices and their materials, they also make an important contribution to environmental protection.

Social responsibility and accessibility:

The social dimension of sustainability emphasises the importance of accessibility and equity. In medical technology, this means developing products and solutions that are environmentally friendly and at the same time accessible to the population. This includes considering costs, availability in undersupplied regions and adapting to the needs of different user groups. By assuming social responsibility, companies can help to reduce health inequalities and improve the quality of healthcare worldwide.

The role of sustainability in medical technology is complex and touches on environmental, economic and social dimensions that are closely linked to the key concepts of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). By integrating sustainability principles into their strategies and processes, companies in the medical technology sector have the opportunity to have a positive impact on environmental protection while promoting innovation, increasing efficiency and making medical care accessible to all sections of the population.

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance)

ESG criteria provide a framework for companies to measure and improve their performance in the areas of environment, social responsibility and ethical corporate governance. By taking these criteria into account, medical technology companies can ensure that their products and processes are environmentally friendly while also incorporating the social and governance aspects of their business activities, resulting in a more comprehensive sustainability strategy.

GRI (Global Reporting Initiative)

As a standard for sustainability reporting, the GRI enables companies to communicate their progress in the area of sustainability in a transparent manner. By applying the GRI standards, medical technology companies can present their sustainability performance in detail, which increases the credibility and trust of stakeholders and helps to recognise potential for improvement.

CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)

Finally, CSR emphasises the importance of corporate social responsibility towards society. By going beyond the legal requirements and voluntarily committing to higher social and environmental standards, medical technology companies make an important contribution to social welfare and environmental protection. This also includes the development of products that are made accessible to broad sections of the population and thus improve medical care.

The challenge when it comes to sustainability is undoubtedly to find a balance that both meets the needs of society today and takes future generations into account. In order to pave the way to a sustainable future, it is therefore advisable for the medical technology industry to recognise sustainability as a criterion for success now and take a leading role.  

Reuse and reduction: sustainable practices in medical technology

The medical technology industry is on the cusp of a more sustainable future, characterised by innovative approaches to recycling and resource reduction. These developments are not only a response to the increasing demands of environmental protection, they are also a response to the need to increase efficiency and improve the accessibility of medical care worldwide.

The recycling or reuse of medical devices is a key aspect of sustainable practices. This approach minimises the amount of waste by extending the life of products and reducing their overall impact on the environment. Innovative sterilisation and refurbishment methods enable the safe reuse of products and thus offer an efficient solution for reducing medical waste. In addition, the development of modular and dismountable devices promotes the easy reuse of components and materials, which further increases resource efficiency.

Hospitals in Germany alone produce around 4.8 million tonnes of waste every year, making them the fifth largest waste producer. In addition to the usual packaging materials such as paper, glass and plastic, dressing materials, medicine containers and protective clothing that are only used once are also disposed of. Wash bowls and surgical instruments also frequently end up as waste. Currently, over 60 per cent of all medical products are intended for single use, and the trend is rising. Around half of these are made of plastic. The demand for raw materials for disposable medical products is constantly increasing, which is why new recycling strategies urgently need to be developed to meet the special requirements of the industry.

In terms of volume, typical hospital waste, i.e. materials contaminated with blood, secretions or faeces but which are not infectious, make up the largest proportion. This waste is usually collected and incinerated by specialised disposal companies. Recycling or sorting after decontamination is only possible in specially authorised cases. There is considerable potential for recycling in this segment in particular, as many high-quality materials are currently simply destroyed. However, there is a conflict between safety and infection control requirements on the one hand and environmental protection objectives on the other. A revision of the regulatory requirements in the interests of sustainability would be particularly useful here.

In addition to recycling, reducing the consumption of resources in production plays a key role. By using energy-efficient production processes and optimising supply chains, companies can significantly reduce their ecological footprint. Choosing environmentally friendly materials and switching to green energy sources are also important factors that contribute to sustainability. These measures reduce operating costs while helping to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and minimise environmental impact.

The integration of sustainability principles into research and development is another decisive step on the way to a more environmentally friendly medical technology “world”. The promotion of sustainable innovations such as biodegradable implants or energy-efficient diagnostic devices opens new ways to reduce environmental impact and improve patient care at the same time. Despite promising progress, medical technology companies are simultaneously facing higher regulatory hurdles and the need to prove the economic viability of sustainable solutions. However, these challenges also offer opportunities for growth and differentiation in an increasingly competitive market.

Recycling and waste minimisation in medical technology serve as foundation pillars of sustainability while driving innovation and efficiency. By advancing these practices, the industry can play a leading role in the global movement towards a more sustainable future. Balancing environmental responsibility with the pursuit of medical advancement is a challenge, but the opportunities that arise from this balance are limitless.

Sustainable supply chains: Challenges and opportunities

The importance of sustainable supply chains is increasing in all industries, but also in the medical technology industry. In the face of global challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity and social inequality, companies are faced with the task of rethinking their supply chains and making them more sustainable. This change offers the opportunity to minimise environmental impact and at the same time opens new opportunities for efficiency, innovation and competitiveness.

Complexity of supply chains:

Medical technology supply chains are often global and complex, which makes it difficult to monitor and ensure sustainable practices at suppliers, especially if they produce in distant but more cost-effective regions. Ensuring transparency across multiple levels is a particular challenge here.

Regulatory requirements:

Medical technology is subject to strict regulatory requirements that can make it difficult to introduce sustainable materials and processes. Compliance with these regulations while simultaneously pursuing sustainability goals requires careful planning and coordination.


Switching to sustainable supply chains can entail higher costs in the short term, for example through investments in environmentally friendly technologies or the selection of more sustainable but more expensive materials.

Risk mitigation:

Making the supply chain more sustainable can reduce risks, particularly in connection with environmental pollution, resource scarcity and social problems. This protects companies from fluctuations in the availability and prices of raw materials and ensures long-term resilience.

Brand advantage:

Consumers and investors are increasingly focussing on sustainability. Companies that invest in sustainable supply chains can increase their brand value and position themselves as pioneers in their industry.

Innovation and efficiency:

The focus on sustainability can lead to innovations in product design and manufacturing. More efficient production methods and the use of sustainable materials can reduce costs and improve product quality in the long term.

The implementation of sustainable supply chains also results in further advantages:

Create transparency:

Creating a transparent supply chain by implementing tracking and reporting systems is the first step in identifying potential for improvement.

Promote co-operation:

Collaboration with suppliers in the development and implementation of sustainability standards is crucial. Training and support can help align the entire supply chain towards common goals.

Sustainable purchasing:

The selection of suppliers who are committed to sustainable practices and the preference for renewable resources over non-renewable resources are important steps towards minimising the environmental impact.

Regular review and adjustment:

Sustainability in the supply chain is a continuous process. Regular reviews and adjustments are necessary in order to respond to changes in the industry and new sustainability technologies.

Growing expectations in hospitals

Hospitals are also faced with the challenge of minimising their environmental impact and implementing sustainable practices. In the field of medical technology in particular, manufacturers are increasingly expected to offer sustainable solutions that not only benefit patients and medical staff, but also reduce the environmental footprint of healthcare facilities.

Hospitals rely on high-quality, safe medical devices to ensure efficient and effective patient care. From diagnostic equipment and surgical instruments to beds and monitoring systems – everyday hospital life is unimaginable without medical technology. However, these technologies come at a price, both financially and ecologically. Energy consumption, waste generated by disposable materials and the need to continuously maintain and replace medical devices represent a considerable environmental burden. Every year, German hospitals generate several million tonnes of waste from used protective masks, test equipment, syringes, gloves and surgical gowns. Sterile disposable products account for a large proportion of the waste produced in hospitals and medical practices. High hygiene standards place limits on the principle of “reuse, reduce, recycle”. Nevertheless, the aim of sustainable medical technology should be to conserve resources and transform its products into a circular economy – so that disposable products find their way into recycling instead of waste incineration.

In the face of global pressure to combat climate change and operate more sustainably, hospitals are also increasingly focussing on green initiatives. They expect:

Energy-efficient devices: Products that consume less energy not only reduce operating costs, but also CO2 emissions.

Durability and reparability: Devices that are easy to refurbish, maintain and repair extend their useful life and reduce the need for new purchases.

Recycling and reuse: Solutions for the recycling of medical waste and the reuse of products help hospitals to reduce their waste volumes.

Biocompatible and non-toxic materials: The use of safe materials protects patients and staff from potential health risks.

Implementing these expectations presents manufacturers with further challenges in addition to the existing requirements, but also offers opportunities for innovation and market differentiation. Companies that invest in sustainable product development can position themselves as pioneers in an increasingly environmentally conscious market. In addition, sustainable practices often lead to efficiency gains and cost savings that can ultimately be passed on to hospitals.

The integration of sustainability principles into the corporate strategy is becoming more important worldwide. For newcomers to the field of sustainability, this process may seem daunting at first, but with a structured approach and professional support, it is not only feasible, but also profitable.

Setting specific and measurable sustainability targets is crucial. The objectives should be orientated towards the areas in which the company can achieve the greatest positive impact. A clear and practicable implementation plan must then be developed that translates the sustainability objectives into concrete measures. The integration of sustainability into the corporate culture is crucial in order to successfully promote awareness and commitment at all levels.

Regular monitoring and the measurement of progress help to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures implemented and identify areas for further improvement. Equally important is the transparent communication of sustainability efforts both internally and externally in order to build trust and credibility. Flexibility and openness to continuous learning are essential, as the path to sustainability requires constant adjustments and optimisation. In addition, partnerships and cooperation with other companies and organisations can further strengthen the sustainability process.

At seleon, we support companies on their path to sustainability. We offer trainings and workshops to convey a basic understanding of sustainability and also provide support in performing sustainability audits in order to set priorities and define realistic goals. With proven methods and customised strategies, we support you in creating implementation plans.

By providing ongoing advice, we ensure that your company’s sustainability strategy remains up to date and adapt it if necessary. We also identify potential partners and promote collaborations that support the sustainability goals. With our expertise and experience, we help you to successfully master the many challenges on the path to sustainability and make a significant contribution to a more sustainable future for your medical products.

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