How a Corporate ‘Lifer’ Helped Transform a Century-Old Business into a Sustainability Front Runner

Tom Idle

Posted 2 days ago.
About a 8 moment study.

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When it will come to producing sustainable enterprise a actuality, the journey is just as critical as the vacation spot. Handful of businesses prove this far more than Dow — provider of several of the chemical, plastic and buyer methods that the entire world requirements to correctly transition to a small-carbon overall economy.

The businesses leading the cost towards sustainable progress frequently fall
into two buckets: The begin-ups that exist particularly to address an
environmental or social obstacle (believe Tesla) and the legacy corporations
using their heft to produce a positive alter.

The newest GlobeScan/SustainAbility Leaders
which has been tracking professional thoughts on corporate sustainability
because the mid-1990s, at the time once again spots Patagonia and Unilever best of the
tree. The former was founded with excellent intentions, with founder Yvon
eager to prove his passion for guarding nature and unwilling to
compromise his commercial ambitions. The latter, Unilever, has been on a extensive
to successful favor, many thanks to its proactive sustainable growth technique and high
brand expectations.

Curiously, the best of the 2021 rating is dominated by providers with a extended
record — from Natura &Co, IKEA and Walmart to Nestlé,
Interface and Brazilian paper business Suzano.

“In a sign that the hallmarks of leadership have shifted, sustainable small business
models and approach is the strongest driver of recognized management, overtaking
target-setting and articulating sustainability values or function,” the report

Obviously, when it arrives to building sustainable business a fact, the journey is
just as crucial as the location.

Handful of organizations demonstrate this a lot more than Dow — a 125-yr-previous
materials science business enterprise that has a critical function in providing a lot of of the
chemical, plastic and shopper alternatives that the world requirements to effectively
changeover to a minimal-carbon economic climate. Right now, Dow — between the three biggest
components science producers globally — has a strategic approach to produce
ground breaking and sustainable methods for its buyers in packaging,
infrastructure, mobility and shopper treatment. Sustainability is at the coronary heart of
its generate to be the “most modern, purchaser-centric, inclusive and
sustainable supplies science company in the environment.”

But it wasn’t constantly this way.

The company’s corporate director of sustainability, Eunice
, is
well positioned to convey to the tale of a company she has been a element of for the very last
31 several years. An industrial engineering important from the College of Florida,
Heath kick-started out her Dow profession in complex income and internet marketing as an intern.
A vast variety of organization advancement positions later — having her from North
The usa
to Switzerland and back yet again — and she grew to become part of the
corporate sustainability group. That was eight years in the past.

“Back then, sustainability was this group off to the facet, doing its thing —
foremost the demand and in some cases pulling enamel, and hoping to pull absolutely everyone
alongside,” Heath tells Sustainable Brands™.

That is no for a longer time the situation, she claims. “I’m happy to say that, currently, we have
sustainability administrators in each one particular of our companies. If we had not started
out on sustainability some 25 many years in the past, we would be a pretty diverse Dow these days.
We would be the Dow that nonetheless focuses on commodity chemicals, rather than the
Dow that develops elements for the potential.”

Despite the fact that sustainability wasn’t a ‘thing’ back again when Heath was learning the ropes
in revenue and promoting, vitality effectiveness was quite significantly a emphasis for the
small business, as was h2o stewardship and minimizing waste — all the things that hit
the bottom line. Reminiscing, she states the critical change now is the
relationship Dow has with its clients. Right now, Dow’s technique to sustainability
is pushed by external insights and its partnerships with clients up and down the
worth chain.

“When we produce our packaging technologies, for instance, there is a significant
intimacy amount with regards to knowing our customers’ drivers,” she says.
As a result, the effectiveness of Dow’s products and what buyers are hunting
for from a sustainability viewpoint are “light yrs from where we were being when I
initially joined the firm.”

The likes of Proctor &
, Unilever,
Henkel, L’Oréal and
Reckitt Benckiser — Dow’s main buyer foundation — are all being challenged by
their customers to go even more in addressing troubles such as
supplies sourcing or lessening the amount of money of chemical substances that go into solutions,
without having compromising efficiency. “We hear to the market place, and we husband or wife with
our prospects,” Heath says.

And when Heath claims ‘we,’ she is referring to the collective internet marketing,
specialized company and product sales businesses “on the front line” — obtaining out what
is altering in the industry, comprehension the likely effectiveness specifications
that will be wanted in long term years and what is taking place from a regulatory

“Sustainability is a crew sport,” Heath says. Finding a industry sign to acquire
a new solution or option is all effectively and excellent, but if the producing system
is not capable or prepared to deliver alter, there are stumbling blocks.

“When I consider about the decarbonization
we’ve laid out, it involves each individual element of our company functioning with each other. Choose
as an case in point. To guarantee we have new technologies that are recycle-all set, we
want to cope with the complexity of plastics, have the infrastructure
and make circularity in our manufacturing course of action. We have to be prepared for
that — and it doesn’t materialize overnight.”

Listening, adapting and staying proactive are crucial contributors to generating
sustainability materialize inside of a company. But how does that appear about? Is it a
corporate culture that will have to be produced? Is it about utilizing the appropriate folks?
Heath puts Dow’s good results down to possessing equally a best-down and a bottom-up approach
to sustainability. Its Board of Administrators and senior execs are “steeped in
being familiar with the megatrends” that will need new answers — alternatives that
Dow could deliver.

At the other stop of the talent pipeline, Dow has produced “communities of
practice” – interior groups that teach and construct the techniques of staff members on
several topics – lifestyle cycle assessment and round economic climate as examples. At Dow
sites, leaders engage with neighborhood neighborhood heads to comprehend the needs of the
communities in which the company operates. This presents the enterprise a obvious photo
as to the changing skills and schooling of the people it will hire and spots
to husband or wife in the community. “It boils down to persons. It boils down to
accountability, too,” Heath suggests. “Connecting with our stakeholders and our
stockholders and being familiar with what’s on their brain, so that we’re tackling
what’s material — that is the vital.”

Making certain Dow has the expertise ready to tackle long term environment problems is what
retains Heath up at night. As we march toward 10 billion persons on this world —
all of whom will require a lot more food items, water, electrical power, methods — “we need to have to have
the expertise completely ready to tackle these sustainability challenges, starting off the second
they initially walk in the doorway or at the plant.”

But she continues to be hopeful that the tide is turning amongst the all-vital
buyer base driving constructive improve. From her foundation in Florida, she is
delighted to see persons chatting about supply chain, manufacturing or weather
troubles when she switches on “Good Early morning, The united states.” “We would never ever hear
those discussions on the frequent tv just before,” she states excitedly.

The coronavirus pandemic has also served to focus minds, she admits: “We’ve all
experienced to quit and reflect on what is most critical. That all will come again to relatives.
I have 4 small children and I want technology soon after technology of these kids to
have not just a practical planet, but a thriving earth.”

For Dow, which is now operating towards its 3rd established of 10-calendar year
sustainability targets, COVID-19 has strengthened the have to have for collaboration in
addressing not only Scope 1 and 2 emissions, but Scope 3
further together the value chain. “The pandemic has been very good for sustainability
because it has introduced to the fore what’s essential for humanity,” Heath asserts.

So, what does the potential keep for Dow as it maintains momentum and continues to
evolve in line with marketplace shifts? Heath’s remedy is dominated by one phrase:

“These methods are in this article to remain. You just cannot have a world of 10 billion men and women
devoid of acquiring really considerably all the things that we
turn into far more circular. That’s where our businesses are concentrated.”

She factors to Dow’s
mattress-recycling application as an instance of how the company plans to near the
loop, recycling polyurethane foam from end-of-lifetime mattresses and turning it
into polyols that can be employed in new mattresses.

Somewhere else, Dow’s ongoing
with The Character Conservancy has put a benefit on character-based options in its
professional final decision-making. And the corporation will also focus much more on drinking water
stewardship and strengthening biodiversity at its producing sites.

As for Heath, after three a long time in the exact same small business in a selection of roles,
she claims pushing the sustainability agenda is the most meaningful matter she has

“When I believe about what I will do just after I retire from Dow, whatsoever it may well be,
I expect to proceed to be executing what I am performing. I want to help several other
firms — medium, little or massive — become extra sustainable and really bake
sustainability into the way they perform. It has to be like respiratory or else,
we are not working collectively for a sustainable upcoming.”