At GLOBE 2012, March 14-16, 2012 in Vancouver, Canada, David Kepler will be speaking in a special session entitled Building Blocks for a Sustainable Economy Dialogue. GLOBE put a number of questions to David about his role as Chief Sustainability Officer and about the importance that Dow places on its sustainability mission.
1) How does Dow define ‘sustainability’ and how does it transcend your organization?
Sustainable development requires making every decision with the future in mind. It is our relationship with the world around us – creating economic prosperity and social value while contributing to the protection of our planet.
At Dow, our mission is to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress by providing sustainable solutions to our customers. We do this by integrating the environmental and social decisions up front.
Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals are company-wide, and each one of us at Dow is accountable for achieving them. These goals are embedded in our corporate strategies, plans and reporting. Each goal has an executive who is leading the obtainment and transparent reporting on each goal.
We also work to engage every employee in the Company through programs like the Dow Sustainability Corps and our internal EVERGREEN website – a grassroots, employee-driven website for learning and sharing actions we can all take to improve our planet.
2) What is the biggest challenge you have faced on the road to becoming a more sustainable company?
Our biggest challenge also presents our biggest opportunity, which is market demand for more sustainable solutions. Though there’s a greater demand for sustainable products today than in the past, economic constraints certainly affect what people are willing to pay – and can afford to pay – for more environmentally-friendly products. We must be innovative to provide better function for price, with a lower environmental footprint.
3) What are the greatest opportunities on the near to mid- term horizon with respect to the environmental products and/or services Dow plans to supply its customers?
In 2011, the world population surpassed seven billion people, and in the next four decades it will grow by at least two billion more. Without solutions, the impact this will have on the planet and society could be staggering. The increased demand for energy, water, food, and material goods is straining our natural resources – so the world needs new solutions.
Dow sees an opportunity to develop more sustainable products and manufacturing processes to respond to these needs. Our product development and research are targeting these mega trends that need to be addressed.
As part of our 2015 Sustainability Goals, we are committed to achieving 10 percent of product sales highly advantaged by sustainable chemistry. We are applying life cycle assessments (LCA), minimizing energy footprints, and designing safety into products and processes that help protect human health and the environment. Implementing these principles will help us collectively address human needs and environmental challenges as the world population increases.
4) What’s one business lesson around sustainability you’d like to pass on to others?
Simply that it’s integrated. It’s not just about making money then becoming socially responsible. A business must bring products and services to market while factoring in the environment and its social responsibility – together. This balance is only achieved through the individual behaviors and values of leaders and employees. Such a base brings bold new thinking and innovative solutions forward. Dow expects all its employees to work from a common set of values: integrity, respect for people and protecting the planet.
5) What message do you plan to bring to the diverse international audience in your special Dialogue session at GLOBE 2012 entitled ‘Building Blocks for a Sustainable Economy’?
Innovation and collaboration are two very important factors required to solve world challenges. With more than 96 percent of manufactured products enabled by chemistry, world challenges will ultimately be solved by new solutions created by companies like Dow, in collaboration with customers, industries, governments, academia and civil society.
There is a lot of pessimism in the world today, but with pessimism you lose the view of potential. People then draw a straight line from the serious trends we see to disastrous outcomes, and they forget to factor in the Human Element. From a science perspective, we believe that chemistry and engineering – coupled with human ingenuity – have the power to bend those lines.
Optimism allows you to think of solutions, and work in new ways. We will bend those lines and change these trends.
We are motivated to share our sustainability journey with like-minded people and companies so we can continue to learn and accelerate innovation on all fronts. GLOBE is a forum where we can meet with potential collaborators, learn from each other – that’s what I’m most looking forward to.
For more information on his session and others go to www.GLOBE2012.com.
Article appearing courtesy 3BL Media.