Biocogent, a company headquartered at the Long Island High Technology Incubator (LIHTI) at Stony Brook University, was recently awarded Platinum status by EcoVadis, the world’s largest provider of business sustainability ratings. Platinum is EcoVadis’ highest ranking and is awarded to the top one percent of companies assessed.
Company President Joe Ceccoli said Biocogent ranked among the best companies in the EcoVadis listing, which amounts to around 75,000 assessed or rated companies. “Our market is demanding that companies undergo sustainability audits and be rated against industry standards and company peers,” Ceccoli said. “A company’s rating and commitment to sustainability is a key indicator for our customers and has a direct financial impact on the business.”
Founded in 2010, the bioscience company develops, manufactures and sells novel dermatologic active compounds (increasingly plant and bio-based) and currently has 52 products that it sells to more than 16 countries around the world. It has additional locations at the Innovation and Discovery Center (IDC) adjacent to the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT), local warehouses and a newly acquired factory dedicated to biomanufacturing in Bellport, NY, occupying a total of 32,000 square feet, 13,000 of which are at LIHTI.
The company’s connection to Stony Brook runs much deeper than its space at the LIHTI; nine of its 35 employees hold degrees from the university.
Biocogent is Ceccoli’s fourth business started at LIHTI. He and Dr. James Hayward ’83, ’01 — a notable Stony Brook alumnus and entrepreneur — founded the Collaborative Group of companies prior to Biocogent’s inception in 2010.
Ceccoli credited a 2020 SBU graduate, Shannon Brady, who earned a master’s in higher education administration, as instrumental in Biocogent achieving Platinum status.
“As with all Biocogent employees, Shannon wears many hats, which include the co-management of the company’s environmental health and safety, regulatory affairs, sustainability and diversity leadership,” said Ceccoli. “She helps to manage our compliance and reporting to industry regulations and our sustainability programs. Awareness of sustainability is not new, but the emphasis on meaningful sustainable practices and new mandatory sustainability disclosures has put corporate sustainability at center stage.”
Ceccoli added that Brady works directly with Jaime Sucher, Biocogent’s director of regulatory affairs, to lead the company’s efforts in all aspects of sustainability. Sucher established critical milestones for sustainability that she in turn has implemented locally.
Biocogent’s SBU alumni have earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at the university. The company’s director of R&D, Paul Lawrence, graduated from Stony Brook with his PhD in 2007. In terms of jobs, Biocogent boasts SBU-educated chemists and biochemists, chemical engineers, and also employees like Brady, who have degrees in non-science fields.
“We did not work directly with Stony Brook University staff, but we included SBU practices adopted by the LIHTI management team, which played a part in our Platinum score,” noted Ceccoli.
Those practices include SBU’s energy management recycling initiatives and its hazardous waste collection and disposal program.
The efficient use of energy to mitigate energy costs and the overall impact energy usage has on the campus and local environment contributed to Biocogent’s reduction of energy consumption in addition to the company’s technology and other equipment upgrades. Recycling initiatives implemented in the LITHI building enabled Biocogent to increase its quantity of waste recycled and divert those materials from landfills, and the hazardous waste collection and disposal program at SBU ensures the proper and safe management of hazardous, regulated and universal waste. The program has helped Biocogent minimize the risk of materials that have the potential to cause health problems or are known to have a hazardous environmental impact.
The company’s products target specific biological processes responsible for skin health at the molecular and structural level. Though consumers may not recognize branded products that contain Biocogent technology by name, the functional activity of those products is derived from Biocogent technology.
“SBU’s leadership in fostering positive change through global conservation and sustainability, and LIHTI’s dedication to helping small technologically innovative companies such as Biocogent flourish, played instrumental roles in our sustainability achievements as a company,” Ceccoli said. “Many of the programs and initiatives set by SBU, and implemented by LIHTI, supported Biocogent’s efforts in offering sustainable, cutting-edge products and services to the personal care and cosmetic industries.”
EcoVadis cited Biocogent’s strong policies and procedures in labor and human rights issues, environmental impacts, and business ethics issues. It also identified strengths such as Biocogent’s measures to protect its employees’ health and safety, and employee training programs such as safety training and energy conservation, anti-discrimination and harassment policies, employee development and retention initiatives, measures implemented to reuse or recycle waste, and its formalized procedure to properly manage chemicals.
Initially, Biocogent’s sustainability efforts were in response to individual requests from its customers; if a customer was only interested in using vegetable-derived glycerin, the company would conduct research and find a reliable source that met those quality standards. As these types of requests continued, Biocogent analyzed the trends and proactively began a formal sustainability program.
While this program is continually evolving, Ceccoli said Biocogent has reached a point where sustainability is now a major part of all company decision-making processes.
“When we develop products, we actively seek plant and non-animal derived starting materials, sustainably farmed botanicals, and avoid conflict minerals that may have been mined to support violence and exploitation in Africa, to name a few initiatives,” he said.
— Glenn Jochum