Angelika Storm, Head of ESG Strategy

Sustainability takes teamwork

The isolation, uncertainties and hardships of a global health crisis have fostered a stronger sense of what really matters among many people – including corporate decision-makers. Angelika Storm, head of QIAGEN’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiative, believes that sustainability is now more relevant than ever. She explains QIAGEN’s approach, and why the only way to scale ESG solutions is to overcome silos and drive active cross-functional and cross-industry teamwork. But is teamwork alone enough?

At QIAGEN, we often talk about the environment and our children’s future. Given current circumstances – the urgent need to address climate change, a virus that has caused a pandemic, is not yet fully under control and could mutate further, and now war in Europe – we are all acutely aware of how globally interconnected we are. We share a strong sense of responsibility for creating a more sustainable future for everyone.

That said, it bears mentioning that our industry has a legacy of sustainability issues. One aspect is lack of transparency, which is understandable considering the staggering costs of R&D and regulatory processes as well as the limited period of exclusive ownership of an innovation protected by patents.

Heavy reliance on plastics in drug manufacturing and packaging is a further challenge we need to collectively address. Not surprisingly, healthcare and life sciences companies typically have modest ratings on ESG, a performance framework for evaluating companies on their progress toward sustainability goals. Of course, the life sciences industry is not alone in this respect, but it must be said that we still face significant barriers to change in order to meet the expectations to our industry when it comes to sustainable innovation.

QIAGEN's Headquarters in Hilden, Netherlands from bird's view
Sustainability is an area predestined for cooperation: all stakeholders face virtually identical challenges, with little or no risk of giving away balance sheet-critical secrets. A cross-functional and cross-industry approach that brings contributions together in alignment with specific ESG goals would benefit everyone.

It’s shocking that microplastics are found everywhere: in the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat.

Angelika Storm, Head of ESG Strategy and Impact Programs

A systemic challenge

As mentioned, lack of transparency and thinking within silos are major obstacles to achieving important sustainability goals. This is embedded in the traditional structures of companies in our industry – a systemic hurdle.

Adding to this is the lack of a common framework for navigating the ESG landscape amid new regulations, investor and activist pressure as well as continuously evolving technologies and scientific knowledge on ESG-relevant topics like carbon capture, renewable energies or the Circular Economy. In fact, according to data recently collected by Julia Forbess and Ron Llewellyn of the law firm Fenwick, which specializes in advisory services for life sciences, current ESG reporting among biotech companies is limited. There is no consensus as to where and what to report in our industry 1.

But does this have to be the case? As the cooperation on COVID-19 vaccine development clearly demonstrates, sharing knowledge often benefits all.

Sustainability is an area predestined for cooperation: all stakeholders face virtually identical challenges, with little or no risk of giving away balance sheet-critical secrets. I advocate a cross-functional and cross-industry approach that brings our contributions together in alignment with specific ESG goals. By agreeing on ESG metrics and objectives across the life sciences industry, all stakeholders can gain greater credibility and clarity. Ultimately, this resonates with the core of our vision at QIAGEN – making improvements to life possible.

As part of our overall sustainability initiatives, our goal is to minimize our environmental impact by reducing, reusing and recycling wherever possible. Some of the innovations for a greener future include the development of a new QIAwave kit at QIAGEN. These smaller kit boxes use up to 63% less plastic and the Reusable Waste Tubes are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.
I’m excited about what is possible as our teams work collaboratively and with purpose.
Angelika Storm, Head of ESG Strategy and Impact Programs

Teamwork is not a silver bullet

And yet, we have to acknowledge that teamwork and cooperation are no silver bullet. All too often, the drive for consensus leads to a watering down of bold visions and agreement on the lowest common denominator – objectives that do not threaten anyone’s interests, but don’t do much good either.

That’s why the key role of individual initiative need to be emphasized. The EU response to the millions of refugees fleeing bombing and ground attacks in Ukraine is a prime example: as well-intentioned as the national- and EU-level support has been, it has often been overly complicated and time-consuming. Swift and unbureaucratic initiatives of private individuals and organizations have been instrumental in transporting, helping and housing vulnerable and, in many cases, traumatized refugees.

Three main reasons are the inspiration behind having taken on the role of QIAGEN’s new head of sustainability. First, I have two girls, and often think about the future they will have if we don’t act now. And I want to help drive that change. Second, sustainability adds value to QIAGEN. And third, I have experienced the power of teamwork – coupled with initiative – at QIAGEN. The potential of collaborative, purpose-driven teamwork in our organization and across the industry to shift from silo-based anxiety barriers to enthusiastic, collaborative action is quite exciting. As more of us embark on this ESG journey together, we can speed up the process and be more effective and efficient as a company and as an industry.

Let’s take plastics as an example. Microplastics are now found everywhere – in the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat. Consequently, we can find them in our bodies and our children’s bodies. This fact is alarming and worrying. When shopping, I take this into consideration, buying cosmetics in recycled packaging, for example, or taking my own bags. Or even better, heading to the local market stands where packaging is avoided.

Close-up of business partners looking at business document in touchpad
Reporting guidelines, corresponding laws and regulations, etc. can help all of us accelerate towards a sustainable future more quickly. And this is of interest to stakeholders who want to invest in companies who have clear ESG goals.
Besides feeling good about doing good, sustainability endeavors also make business sense.
Angelika Storm, Head of ESG Strategy and Impact Programs

Implementation at QIAGEN

We want to embed sustainability holistically across QIAGEN. Based on a collaborative approach, we have introduced a corporate plastic reduction plan throughout the entire company. It has inspired colleagues to come up with a huge number of good ideas to work toward these goals, changes that also save costs, especially considering how the price for plastic has also gone up with the oil price. Examples are reducing the thickness of our plastic packaging or recycling the gloves and overshoes we use in our labs and production. 

We also launched our first ecological product line, QIAwave, this year with 63% less plastic and 42% less cardboard. Innovation, collaboration and teamwork made this possible.

On April 22, inspired by Earth Day, local QIAGEN teams collected trash in green areas around the globe. At our headquarters in Hilden, Germany, 19 employees collected twelve large bags of trash within just 2 hours. It’s so great to see teams working together in so many ways.

In my new role, I have embraced increased stakeholder pressure to work and live more sustainably as an opportunity. Reporting guidelines, corresponding laws and regulations etc. can help all of us accelerate our efforts and impact. UK, for example, has introduced a tax on plastic packaging material, which will have a big impact. Players that deliver alternatives to plastic packaging will enjoy a significant competitive advantage.

Ultimately, linking sustainability with business success gives us more purpose at work while helping deliver revenue gains. Cross-industry collaboration and teamwork are the key to success. And these are starting to happen. In one example, USAID has partnered with more than 150 of the world’s top companies, political leaders and financial institutions to expand renewable and clean energy across sub-Saharan Africa.

QIAGEN has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. To achieve our goal, alongside plastic reduction, many colleagues are working hard in teams across functions to analyze a wide range of areas – from purchasing green energy to logistics and employee commuting. This will serve as the basis for our team to achieve our ambitious targets and give us purpose in our day-to-day work.

The path to greater sustainability and compliance with stringent and transparent ESG requirements is not smooth. There will be many ups and downs. Yet every step counts. Never underestimate how every conversation and action taken, no matter how small, can lead to a better and more sustainable future. For QIAGEN, for my daughters and for all of us.

Ultimately, linking sustainability with business success gives us more purpose at work while helping deliver revenue gains. Cross-industry collaboration and teamwork are the key to success.
Angelika Storm
Angelika Storm, Head of ESG Strategy
Angelika Storm joined QIAGEN in 2005 and has held various roles throughout the company with a focus on marketing and portfolio management until deciding to take the position of Head of ESG Strategy and Impact Programs in 2021. In her current role, she is planning on leading various ESG initiatives with the ultimate goal of a sustainable future. She is especially driven to provide a better future for her two daughters and recognizes that you have to lead by example.


1) J. Forbess Ron C., Llewellyn, Fenwick & West LLP (March, 2022) Biotech’s ESG Crossroads. Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance. June 23, 2022