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Sustainability is Key to Environment, Health and Safety at Dow

Dow's corporate vice president of Environment, Health & Safety explains why doing good for its communities, employees and the environment is not only driven by moral considerations, it makes good business sense.

At Dow Chemical Co., the corporation and its global manufacturing sites are only one part of a larger environmental system. Dow's goal is to make products and offer services that are valuable to others and to co-exist within the larger natural and human systems where it operates.

Practically speaking, this translates into the only acceptable goals for the company: no injuries or illnesses, no environmental harm and the integration of the principles of sustainable development into everything Dow does.

Resource Productivity

For Dow's resource productivity improvement energy, waste, wastewater, overall chemical emissions, priority compounds and dioxins and furans we estimate that we will ultimately spend close to $900 million, but we will achieve overall value of $2.6 billion.

Just one example is the Waste Reduction Always Pays (WRAP) Award program, which began in 1986. Since that time, Dow has recognized 395 projects and presented their sponsors with WRAP Awards. The projects have accounted for the reduction of 230,000 tons of waste, 13 million tons of wastewater and 8 trillion BTUs of energy saved. The estimated value of all of these projects is about $1 billion.

Recently, Dow announced it would be adding new criteria to the WRAP award for converting waste into raw materials. By all measures, WRAP is a very successful program, but we are determined that even more can be done.

Dow's Vision of Zero

An injury- and illness-free workplace is the only appropriate goal if you are serious about protecting employees. While statistically improbable, the vision remains constant and one to which we continually aspire.

Dow's policies on preventing injuries on the job have resulted in over 9,000 fewer workplace injuries and illnesses since 1994. The global injury and illness rate for all Dow employees and contract workers in 2002 improved to 0.69 injuries and illnesses per 200,000 work hours. This represents a 20 percent improvement over 2001, when performance was 0.85, and one-fourth the overall rate it was during the base year of 1994. We take our vision of an injury-free workplace quite seriously. While the numbers show our progress, our safe employees live our vision.

At Dow, the vision of zero extends to spills at our facilities or into the environment. Leaks, breaks and spills from Dow processing equipment and facilities include those that are captured in various backup systems and do not usually cause environmental impact. Dow tracks leaks, breaks and spills because they are often early warning indicators of potentially more severe incidents. In 2002, incidents of leaks, breaks and spills at Dow facilities dropped 14 percent from 2001. The company's focus this year has been to accelerate implementation of our primary containment reduction effort. Improving this performance is key for Dow.

Sustainability Yields New Products

Dow does more than merely talk about sustainable development. Dow products and technology are already helping to improve the lives of people all over the world. While we know we are on a journey toward sustainable development, there is tangible progress to report.

At Dow, sustainable development is a natural extension of Responsible Care, which is a voluntary initiative within the global chemical industry to safely handle products from inception in the research laboratory, through manufacture and distribution, to ultimate disposal, and to involve the public in the decision-making process. But sustainable development goes beyond Responsible Care by addressing business issues and the concerns of shareholders, employees, customers and society in developing strategies and planning for long-term profitability. In 1994, Dow set rigorous eco-efficiency goals for reducing waste, energy use and consumption with a deadline for 2005, and has issued reports every year on the progress and challenges to meeting those goals. Some of Dow's efforts toward sustainable development include:

  • At a facility in Terneuzen, Netherlands, the water treatment system was restructured to recycle 80 percent of non-salty water at the manufacturing site. This resulted in a 50 percent reduction in total wastewater discharge per pound of product. The project contributed to significant energy savings and to the long-term availability of fresh water to the entire region.
  • In response to a report from the European Center for the Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals, Dow led an industry effort to investigate the potentially delayed toxic effects of a group of polyglycols used in lubricant basestocks. In response to that investigation, Dow developed a new product. The new product, SYNALOX fluids, offers low inhibitor toxicity, excellent lubrication performance and good low temperature properties to meet market requirements.
  • Sustainable development goes beyond protection of the environment. When affiliates of Dow and Petronas, the national oil company of Malaysia, built their new facility in Kerteh, Malaysia, 8,500 workers recorded 22.7 million consecutive man hours without a lost-time accident. This was a record-setting performance for the country and was the result of Dow's commitment to employee and environmental safety and health.

Examples of a Sustainable Mindset

As sustainable development becomes incorporated into everything done at Dow, more commercial products and technologies that embrace the philosophy of sustainable development are hitting the market. Here are several:

  • Treatments for brain cancer are improving through the application of science and technology from the radiopharmaceuticals group at Dow, helping to improve the quality of life for those afflicted;
  • FILMTEC reverse osmosis membrane technology from Dow is helping to meet pure water needs all over the world, from purifying water for a large industrial water reclamation project in China to a municipal drinking water plant in Spain;
  • Soy-based BIOBALANCE carpet backing incorporates soybean oil, a 100 percent renewable resource;
  • DERAKANE epoxy vinyl ester resin makes buses 7,000 pounds lighter than traditional steel buses. These vehicles consume 10 percent less fuel and produce less exhaust;
  • For 35 years, DERAKANE epoxy vinyl ester resins have helped modern windmills endure challenging weather conditions. It is the resin of choice that makes wind power possible.
  • Dow and Mobius Technology of San Francisco have developed an innovative technology that makes it easier to recycle polyurethane foam;
  • NatureWorks PLA polymers are a breakthrough in renewable resource utilization. Made byCargill Dow LLC, these polymers are made from corn for such applications as clothing, cups, candy wrappers and home furnishings;
  • Cargill Dow recently introduced INGEO fiber, the world's first man-made fiber derived from 100 percent commercially renewable resources.

These and other innovations are the basis for continued global value growth for Dow. To learn more about Dow's Sustainable Development efforts, read the 2002 Global Public Report at

Larry L. Washington Jr. is corporate vice president of Environment, Health & Safety, Human Resources and Public Affairs for the Dow Chemical Co. He is also a member of the company's Executive Management Team. Washington joined Dow in Midland, Mich., in 1969, and over the next several years, he held a variety of manufacturing assignments. In 1990, Washington was named vice president, Dow North America, and general manager for the Michigan Division. He moved to Human Resources in 1994 and assumed additional responsibility for Environment, Health & Safety and Public Affairs in 1997.

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