Sus­tain­abil­ity – An op­por­tu­nity for the Chem­i­cal In­dus­try

Chemical Industry Digest - - What’s In? - Dr Neil Hawkins

- Dr Neil Hawkins, Chief Sus­tain­abil­ity Of­fi­cer & Cor­po­rate Vice Pres­i­dent-En­vi­ron­ment, Health & Safety, Dow Chem­i­cal Co.

This ar­ti­cle out­lines the pos­si­bil­i­ties and po­ten­tial, with Dow’s own ex­am­ples, on cre­at­ing a roadmap to at­tain the goals of sus­tain­abil­ity.

Ab­stract Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goas (SDGs) adopted by the United Na­tions are meant to make the world, through col­lec­tive ac­tions, a healthy, sus­tain­able and pros­per­ous planet. The SDGs pro­vide busi­ness and in­dus­try un­prece­dented op­por­tu­ni­ties to come up with so­lu­tions needed to en­able sus­tain­able growth. Since 95 per­cent of the man­u­fac­tured goods are due to chem­istry, some way or the other, this means that the chem­i­cal in­dus­try has to take cen­tre stage as in­no­va­tors and so­lu­tion providers.

This ar­ti­cle out­lines the pos­si­bil­i­ties and po­ten­tial, with Dow’s own ex­am­ples, on cre­at­ing a roadmap to at­tain the goals of sus­tain­abil­ity.

Our planet faces daunt­ing eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges, in­clud­ing feed­ing a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion glob­ally, mit­i­gat­ing cli­mate change, and boost­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment while pro­mot­ing a path to­ward more sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices. To ad­dress these chal­lenges, the world’s gov­ern­ments adopted the United Na­tions Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) in 2015. These 17 goals and 169 tar­gets are help­ing guide and shape global de­vel­op­ment through the year 2030. To­gether, the SDGs of­fer a vi­sion of a bet­ter fu­ture – a fu­ture where the world is free from poverty and in­jus­tice and where our col­lec­tive ac­tions sup­port a healthy, sus­tain­able and pros­per­ous planet.

If this am­bi­tious vi­sion is to be­come a re­al­ity, it is ev­i­dent that busi­ness must take a role in achiev­ing these global goals. The size and scale of the is­sues fac­ing our so­ci­ety will need the in­no­va­tion, fi­nance and man­age­ment skills that busi­ness pro­vides. At the same time, the SDGs pro­vide busi­ness with an un­prece­dented op­por­tu­nity to trans­late global chal­lenges into busi­ness so­lu­tions that help build economies and put the world on a more sus­tain­able path. To give an idea of the scope of the op­por­tu­nity, a re­port en­ti­tled ‘Bet­ter Busi­ness, Bet­ter World’ by the Busi­ness & Sus­tain­abil­ity De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion iden­ti­fies a $12 tril­lion mar­ket for achiev­ing just four of the 2030 goals – food and agri­cul­ture, cities (e.g., hous­ing, trans­porta­tion and wa­ter), en­ergy and ma­te­ri­als, and health. In each of these mar­kets, the chem­i­cal in­dus­try is a vi­tal source of in­no­va­tion.

The Chem­i­cal In­dus­try and the SDGs: An Op­por­tu­nity to Lead

The SDGs pro­vide an un­prece­dented op­por­tu­nity for the chem­i­cal in­dus­try to take cen­ter stage as in­no­va­tors and so­lu­tions providers. Be­cause 95 per­cent of the world’s man­u­fac­tured goods are cre­ated from chem­istry, our in­dus­try has the abil­ity to trans­form lives and play a cen­tral role in in­no­vat­ing more sus­tain­able prod­ucts and busi­ness mod­els. How­ever, to fully re­al­ize our po­ten­tial in help­ing ad­vance SDGs, our in­dus­try must go be­yond “busi­ness as usual” and adopt a shift to­ward a more pur­pose-driven per­spec­tive that fully in­te­grates the triple bot­tom line. Sus­tain­abil­ity can no longer be marginal­ized as a “nice thing to do.” It must be a driver of long-term strat­egy for busi­ness growth.

At Dow, we see the role of busi­ness as a cat­a­lyst for change. Our abil­ity to in­no­vate gives us an enor­mous op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance hu­man progress, even as we ad­vance our prof­itabil­ity. In fact, we mapped our sus­tain­abil­ity goals to the SDGs and be­lieve that if we achieve our goals, we will make a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the planet. An­nounced in 2015, our 2025 Sus­tain­abil­ity Goals ad­dress the larger pic­ture of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and chal­lenge our com­pany to be a con­struc­tive part­ner in help­ing bring chem­istry, pub­lic pol­icy in­no­va­tion, and value in­no­va­tion to solve global chal­lenges. In fact, a com­mon thread across our goals is our fo­cus on find­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive busi­ness mod­els that

will lead to trans­for­ma­tive and more sus­tain­able ways to do busi­ness. Not just for Dow – but for other com­pa­nies, com­mu­ni­ties and so­ci­ety too.

In fact, through our 2025 Sus­tain­abil­ity Goals, we hope to help re­de­fine the role of busi­ness in so­ci­ety. That on the sur­face may sound au­da­cious, but it’s built on a hum­bling re­al­ity: No sin­gle com­pany can make this trans­for­ma­tion to a more sus­tain­able fu­ture hap­pen on its own. As a global sci­ence com­pany, we have the tal­ent and tools to help im­pact cli­mate change, en­ergy, food pro­duc­tion, sus­tain­able in­fra­struc­ture and wa­ter. How­ever, if we don’t have the right pub­lic pol­icy en­vi­ron­ment and a value chain that puts these so­lu­tions to ef­fec­tive use, the ben­e­fits of ad­dress­ing these chal­lenges may not ma­te­ri­al­ize.

Plas­tic waste and marine de­bris is a good ex­am­ple. Con­cerns re­gard­ing plas­tic waste re­cently has come to a tip­ping point of pub­lic con­cern and reg­u­la­tory ac­tion. Tech­nol­ogy ex­ists for tack­ling this is­sue, but the prob­lem will take time to solve. To­day, Dow is col­lab­o­rat­ing with Ocean Con­ser­vancy, the Ellen MacArthur Foun­da­tion and the Closed Loop Foun­da­tion to find long-term so­lu­tions. In 2016, we an­nounced a com­mit­ment to spend $2.8 mil­lion over two years to drive so­lu­tions that ad­dress global marine de­bris and lit­ter. As part of that com­mit­ment, we are sup­port­ing the launch of the first quan­ti­ta­tive re­search in the Asia Pa­cific re­gion into the im­pact of plas­tic waste and de­bris on the Edo­gawa and Ohiri Rivers. To­gether with Tokyo Univer­sity of Sci­ence and the Ja­pan Plas­tic In­dus­try, we are ex­am­in­ing the im­pact of waste man­age­ment so­lu­tions and pro­vid­ing data on waste vol­umes pass­ing through the river to help lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and gov­ern­ments im­prove ex­ist­ing sys­tems.

We also are col­lab­o­rat­ing with lo­cal gov­ern­ments and other stake­hold­ers in Asia Pa­cific to help turn plas­tic waste into long-last­ing roads in Asia Pa­cific. In In­dia, Dow worked with the cities of Ban­ga­lore and Pune and waste col­lec­tors to bring to­gether the peo­ple and ma­te­ri­als needed for 40 kilo­me­ters of roads – di­vert­ing 100 met­ric tons of waste from land­fills. Vol­un­teers picked up the plas­tic waste, which was taken to lo­cal re­cy­clers, who grinded the ma­te­rial into small pieces. Those pieces were then sent to lo­cal as­phalt plants and added into the as­phalt mix­ture, re­sult­ing in roads that last two times longer than tra­di­tional roads. In In­done­sia, Dow worked with the govern­ment and var­i­ous stake­hold­ers to com­plete the first plas­tic road trial in De­pok. Ap­prox­i­mately 3.5 met­ric tons of plas­tic waste ma­te­ri­als were mixed into as­phalt to cre­ate a 1.8-kilo­me­ter-long road. Our goal is to con­vene with the right col­lab­o­ra­tors and de­velop a com­mon un­der­stand­ing of the prob­lem and the causes be­hind it. While the case is clear that re­al­iz­ing the SDGs can im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment and build mar­kets, mov­ing from words to deeds can be chal­leng­ing, re­quir­ing com­pa­nies to iden­tify the best op­por­tu­ni­ties to mo­bi­lize their or­ga­ni­za­tions and form al­liances with rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers. This can be made even more chal­leng­ing, con­sid­er­ing the buzz­words that are the sub­ject of de­bate and dis­cus­sion in in­dus­try, govern­ment and the me­dia. Let’s take a look at a few.

Cir­cu­lar econ­omy: To­day’s lin­ear econ­omy – in which nat­u­ral re­sources are ex­tracted, made into prod­ucts, used and thrown away – is un­sus­tain­able, con­sid­er­ing our grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. Mov­ing to­ward a cir­cu­lar econ­omy – in which as few re­sources are used as pos­si­ble and kept in cir­cu­la­tion as long as pos­si­ble – of­fers the chem­i­cal in­dus­try a chance to work across value chains to cre­ate value to help de­cou­ple growth from con­sump­tion.

For us, mov­ing to­ward a more cir­cu­lar econ­omy be­gins in the prod­uct de­sign, so the prod­uct can be op­ti­mized for reuse or re­cy­cling. For ex­am­ple, in 2017, we delivered the first cer­ti­fied re­new­able low-den­sity poly­eth­yl­ene to cus­tomers. In ad­di­tion, adopt­ing a mind­set that moves away from a “take-make-dis­pose” eco­nomic model to one that is re­gen­er­a­tive has led us to in­no­vate and col­lab­o­rate in new ways and across mul­ti­ple value chains. For ex­am­ple, we are ex­plor­ing how to give new life to old mat­tresses by re­cy­cling poly­ols. We are work­ing with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in wa­ter-stressed re­gions to reuse wa­ter for our op­er­a­tions. We also are pi­lot­ing pro­grams that con­vert plas­tics that once went to land­fills into valu­able en­ergy re­sources.

Prod­uct life cy­cle: As the num­ber of reg­u­la­tions in­creases world­wide, chem­i­cal com­pa­nies are be­ing

Mov­ing to­ward a cir­cu­lar econ­omy – in which as few re­sources are used as pos­si­ble and kept in cir­cu­la­tion as long as pos­si­ble – of­fers the chem­i­cal in­dus­try a chance to work across value chains to cre­ate value to help de­cou­ple growth from con­sump­tion.

held in­creas­ingly re­spon­si­ble for the safety of prod­ucts they man­u­fac­ture. We have de­vel­oped a com­pre­hen­sive com­pli­ance pro­gram that ad­dresses all phases of the chem­i­cal life­cy­cle – from re­search and de­vel­op­ment, test­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing, trans­porta­tion, us­age and dis­posal. Life Cy­cle As­sess­ment (LCA) is a use­ful method­ol­ogy for ex­am­in­ing the to­tal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of a prod­uct or ser­vice. For ex­am­ple, our coat­ings ma­te­ri­als busi­ness is us­ing LCAs to in­form and drive in­no­va­tions in raw ma­te­ri­als and tech­nolo­gies that can help coat­ings for­mu­la­tors de­velop more sus­tain­able paints and coat­ings.

LCAs track a prod­uct or ser­vice from raw ma­te­rial sourc­ing through end-of-life (cra­dle to grave). They are typ­i­cally con­ducted in ac­cor­dance with rec­og­nized ISO 14040-14044 stan­dards and val­i­dated by ex­ter­nal and in­de­pen­dent third par­ties. Many fac­tors are taken into con­sid­er­a­tion; for ar­chi­tec­tural paints and coat­ings, these would in­clude the raw ma­te­ri­als that go into the paint for­mu­la­tion, as well as how the paint is ap­plied, how it per­forms and how long it lasts. The re­sults of an LCA can help de­ci­sion mak­ers choose more sus­tain­able op­tions and as­sist in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of green pro­cure­ment pro­grams and eco-la­bel cer­ti­fi­ca­tions

Cra­dle-to-cra­dle cer­ti­fi­ca­tion: A com­pany’s true com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity re­quires not only re­duc­ing the neg­a­tive im­pacts from its op­er­a­tions, but more im­por­tantly, chang­ing its prod­ucts and ser­vices to be more sus­tain­able and help ad­dress en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial chal­lenges. A grow­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies are re­ly­ing on Cra­dle to Cra­dle Cer­ti­fiedTM Prod­uct Stan­dard to ver­ify the ma­te­rial health and pos­i­tive im­pact of the prod­ucts they cre­ate. The Cra­dle to Cra­dle Cer­ti­fied Prod­ucts Pro­gram is an in­de­pen­dent, third-party ver­i­fied cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram that cer­ti­fies prod­ucts and ma­te­ri­als that are de­vel­oped to re­spect hu­man and en­vi­ron­men­tal health, de­signed for fu­ture use cy­cles, and that uti­lize clean en­ergy and wa­ter through­out the sup­ply chain. Cra­dle to Cra­dle prod­uct cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is awarded at five lev­els (Ba­sic, Bronze, Sil­ver, Gold, and Plat­inum), with each higher level im­pos­ing a more rig­or­ous set of re­quire­ments. The low­est score in any qual­ity cat­e­gory es­tab­lishes the prod­uct’s over­all score. Cer­ti­fied prod­ucts are re­quired to show con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment ev­ery two years. An ex­am­ple is our build­ing in­su­la­tion prod­ucts from Dow Build­ing So­lu­tions were cer­ti­fied by the Cra­dle to Cra­dle Cer­ti­fied pro­gram. How­ever, the process of eval­u­at­ing the sus­tain­abil­ity pro­file of our prod­ucts does not end with Cra­dle to Cra­dle Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Be­cause the pro­gram looks at the en­tire prod­uct life cy­cle – from man­u­fac­tur­ing to dis­posal – we are able to iden­tify key pri­or­i­ties for con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment.

Only by in­te­grat­ing the SDGs into the core of cor­po­rate strate­gies can our in­dus­try truly con­trib­ute to meet­ing ev­ery­one’s needs with­out de­plet­ing the planet’s re­sources. When our busi­ness pres­i­dents talk about our busi­ness strat­egy, they fo­cus on Dow’s 2025 Sus­tain­abil­ity Goals and the link to the SDGs. When we talk to cus­tomers about how we are a lead­ing and pro­gres­sive com­pany, one value propo­si­tion of do­ing busi­ness with Dow is that we are align­ing our­selves with the sus­tain­abil­ity trends of the fu­ture, which in­cludes the SDGs.

The SDGs also are a com­mon part of our com­mer­cial dis­cus­sions and con­ver­sa­tions with the re­search com­mu­nity. It gen­er­ates some re­ally in­ter­est­ing ques­tions: as we as­pire to head to­wards a world of no hunger and zero poverty, what kind of busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties open up? As we bring peo­ple out of poverty and into the mid­dle class, what kind of de­mands for prod­ucts and ser­vices does that cre­ate?

Our 2025 Sus­tain­abil­ity Goals are not a tick-box ex­er­cise, rel­e­gated to our sus­tain­abil­ity re­port. They are rig­or­ously in­cor­po­rated into the nor­mal busi­ness unit goals and there­fore be­come func­tional goals, geo­graphic goals, work­ing group goals and per­sonal goals. This is the kind of dis­ci­pline that needs to hap­pen within a com­pany to make the SDGs real. Solid data, ro­bust re­port­ing and pub­lic ac­count­abil­ity are the tools to op­ti­mize a busi­ness’ im­pact, al­low for sus­tain­abil­ity con­tri­bu­tions to be tracked, and help form

A grow­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies are re­ly­ing on Cra­dle to Cra­dle Cer­ti­fiedTM Prod­uct Stan­dard to ver­ify the ma­te­rial health and pos­i­tive im­pact of the prod­ucts they cre­ate. The Cra­dle to Cra­dle Cer­ti­fied Prod­ucts Pro­gram is an in­de­pen­dent, third-party ver­i­fied cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram that cer­ti­fies prod­ucts and ma­te­ri­als that are de­vel­oped to re­spect hu­man and en­vi­ron­men­tal health, de­signed for fu­ture use cy­cles, and that uti­lize clean en­ergy and wa­ter through­out the sup­ply chain.

al­liances with rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers.

This process may sound daunt­ing. But by not act­ing, our in­dus­try not only risks the tremen­dous growth op­por­tu­ni­ties be­fore us, but our rep­u­ta­tions and reg­u­la­tion. For ex­am­ples, in­creased con­cerns re­gard­ing the safe use of chem­i­cals in com­merce and their po­ten­tial im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment as well as per­ceived im­pacts of plant biotech­nol­ogy on health and the en­vi­ron­ment have re­sulted in more re­stric­tive reg­u­la­tions and could lead to new reg­u­la­tions.

Earn­ing the Right to Op­er­ate

At Dow, we be­lieve the com­pa­nies that de­fine the 21st cen­tury will earn their right to op­er­ate by de­liv­er­ing value to so­ci­ety. And they will rec­og­nize that the old mind­set—that com­pa­nies have to choose be­tween do­ing well and do­ing good—is nei­ther prac­ti­cal nor valid. To suc­ceed long term, a com­pany must cre­ate value for so­ci­ety as well as its share­hold­ers.

Be­yond the bot­tom-line ben­e­fits, our sus­tain­abil­ity goals have helped our com­pany and em­ploy­ees em­brace a more en­tre­pre­neur­ial mind­set. To em­brace risk and to find the op­por­tu­nity in chal­lenges. To search out col­lab­o­ra­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties with di­verse part­ners and tap into a wide va­ri­ety of stake­hold­ers’ strengths through­out the value chain to de­liver the best pos­si­ble path for­ward. To re­think old busi­ness mod­els and try new ones.

Over­all, the SDGs of­fer a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for the chem­i­cal in­dus­try. It is an op­por­tu­nity where do­ing good for peo­ple can trans­late into busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties as well. That is a win for so­ci­ety and for our in­dus­try.

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