Better bottom line on the horizon due to STEM graduates' waste reduction

Two new initiatives that benefit the environment might not exist were it not for BioTalent Canada, according to a senior executive at a biological supply and research company in B.C. that initiated the programs.

Rapidly growing Applied Biological Materials Inc. hired interns through BioTalent Canada’s Student Work-Integrated Learning Program, and had them focus on implementing new efforts to reduce packaging and waste both internally and among the company’s partners.

Until hiring the new interns, the company’s main products -- reagents for the biological research community, including academia and industry focused on cancer and anti-cancer pharmaceutical research and development -- were all shipped in single-use packages to keep them sterile. Adding interns supported by BioTalent Canada funding enabled ABM to implement programs to reduce plastic waste through bulk packaging and to introduce international partners to new ways of thinking about waste.

“It isn’t entirely simple to start these projects,” said Earnest Leung, chief operating officer at the Richmond, B.C. based company, which has about 100 staff at its 40,000 square foot facility, and another 85 in China. “We might not have done them, to be honest. But given the funding, we decided to implement them sooner than later.

“It gave us push to do things that we had wanted to do but no one had committed real funds to it, or personnel to it. Once they got a person, we dedicated about a third of the time of individual mentors” to work with the interns on the new programs, Mr. Leung said.

The interns were so effective in their roles that ABM sent to work with distributors.

The efforts were well-placed and have already resulted in a 15 to 20 per cent reduction in shipping costs -- a significant saving for the company with $10 million in annual revenue -- as well as helping distributors and partners to manage waste.

“Everybody knows about the problems with plastics,” Mr Leung said. “They never decompose, they get trapped in the ocean, so there’s a lot of issues related to packaging and recycling, and those things aren’t usually addressed in places like South America and Eastern Asia. Once we explained to them, they understood.”

Beyond the environmental benefits, Mr. Leung noted that the funding fills a vital role in helping to develop Canada’s workforce and bring people on as interns before hiring them into full-time positions as ABM did.

“Every time you do hiring, it’s a cost and we always want to make sure we make the right choices,” Mr. Leung said. “We were able to leverage the funding so we could spend the extra time and teach these people the skills that they need.”

The benefits of BioTalent Canada’s programs are clear and “well worth the effort” any organization might invest to receive the support, he believes.

“It made a big difference in certain parts of our bottom line. It made certain projects go forward that we had thought about but not implemented yet, and it’s a really great way to support the youth and people that need a position who want to come out and work for you but nobody had taken the chance with them,” Mr. Leung said.

“People do need a start and I think that this is one of the best ways to help everybody move forward. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Newsletter Issue: 
HR Microscope - July/August 2018