How Dow Chemical Concentrates Sustainability


Neil Hawkins, vice president, sustainability and EH&S at The Dow Chemical Company

As a follow-on to an article that had appeared in Sustainable Plant’s sister publication, Chemical Processing, we reached out to The Dow Chemical Company for an interview with a high-ranking official who could share Dow’s efforts and aspirations related to sustainability as a component of the products and services the chemical company provides businesses and consumers alike. We connected with Neil Hawkins, vice president, sustainability and EH&S, for a short interview covering the highlights.
We began with asking Hawkins to describe his role:
Hawkins: “Broadly, my role is to drive the strategy and implementation of Dow’s sustainability programs across all of our business and geographies around the world."

“More specifically, we are focused on ensuring that sustainability is factored into every strategic decision at Dow. In 2006, Dow set its enterprise-level 2015 Sustainability Goals to improve sustainability inside and outside our organization, create stronger relationships within the communities in which we operate, improve product stewardship and accelerate innovation while reducing our global footprint. While one of my main responsibilities is the implementation of these goals, we are also focused on moving beyond the metrics to become an industry and business sustainability leader.”

SP: Can you describe how Dow envisions your role? And, as some companies have compensation tied to various performance goals and metrics, is a bonus or other reward tied to your performance to maintain your role?

Hawkins: “My role is to support the global strategic direction of sustainability principles and practices throughout the company’s global operations. At Dow, sustainability is at the core of our business and my role is to continue to drive forward progress on our ambitious sustainability goals and seek, develop and implement strategic partnerships with NGOs, academic, government and peers to achieve these important milestones."

“Performance awards at Dow are tied to company or business performance, as well as individual performance against annual personal goals - which include many aspects of sustainability for most people.”

SP: As the company’s business is using various chemicals and other compounds in its manufactured products, how can this business impact our environment, its customers and society as a whole?

Hawkins: “More than 96 percent of all manufactured products are enabled by chemistry. Every day, Dow employees use chemistry to produce more than 5,000 products in 36 countries around the world – and every day, Dow connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address the world's most challenging problems, such as housing, clean water and renewable energy."

“From water purification technologies to roof shingles that can power your home, our innovations have and will continue to play a vital role in addressing the evolving needs of our planet and society.”

SP: Talking about the many products Dow produces, with regard to product innovation, is sustainability a factor in product design/engineering process?

Hawkins: “At Dow, we know that our progress will be driven by our innovations, but we also see sustainability as the cornerstone of our continued success. Because of this, we focus on innovation that not only helps us reduce our own footprint, but that enables our customers to deliver sustainable solutions to their marketplaces.

“Our researchers are solving the world’s most significant problems every day with their creative innovation and the use of sustainable chemistry. Sustainable chemistry – focusing on sustainability from the molecular level – is built into everything we do to improve aspects of durability, energy efficiency, waste reduction and safety. This ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach drives our engineers to use resources more efficiently, to minimize our footprint, provide value to our customers and stakeholders and ultimately enhance the quality of life of current and future generations.”

SP: Can you share with our readers the company’s view of its environmental, health and safety (EH&S) responsibilities, and how this extends to its sustainability and socially responsible commitments?

Hawkins: “At Dow, protecting people and the environment is part of everything we do and every decision we make. All Dow employees have a responsibility to ensure that our products and operations meet applicable government or Dow standards, whichever is more stringent.

“In 1995, Dow set EH&S goals to guide our product innovation, performance and operations, and we were recognized for our achievements in meeting these milestones. In 2006, we raised the bar even higher with the introduction of our 10-year 2015 Sustainability Goals. These goals integrate our internal EH&S performance goals as well as broader, industry-impacting sustainability goals.”

We look forward to a future opportunity to more fully explore sustainability management at The Dow Chemical Company.

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