Initially trained as a public health scientist, Dow Chemical Company Chief Sustainability Officer Neil Hawkins joined the company 28 years ago and has worked in many different functions—from corporate to site, R&D to management—but he has always had a role in environment, health, safety, and sustainability.
“In a material science and R&D-leading company like Dow, these are opportunities we have to manage well,” Hawkins says. “96 percent of all products sold involve chemistry in some way. If you want to make those better—to create healthier societies, safer products, a lower carbon footprint, and address water—it’s all part of chemistry.”
He spoke with us about his company’s 2025 sustainability goals, the importance of executive sponsorship, and the need to collaborate across corporate value chains.
Eva Dienel: What are Dow’s top sustainability priorities for the year?
Neil Hawkins: Our number one priority is to implement our 10-year 2025 sustainability goals, which cover seven different areas. Within our 2025 goals, three are critical for us this year:
- Valuing nature: We have been working on this for about five years in an intensive way. By 2025, Dow will deliver US$1 billion in value through projects that are good for business and good for ecosystems. This is a large, bold goal that no one has ever conceived or attempted, and we want to get a very strong start this year.
- Advancing the circular economy: Dow will partner with other industry leaders, nonprofit organizations, and governments to deliver six major circular economy projects over the next 10 years. Closing of any loop involves chemistry: You need chemistry in the front, middle, and end to close resource loops.
- Leading the blueprint: We’re going to put ourselves in the middle of a lot of dialogues around sustainability, sustainable development, and global issues, and we’re going to bring our know-how and global reach to create dialogues and collaborations that can help address some of these challenges.
Launching these goals is critical, and getting them right requires innovation with customers, and providing value to the value chain, civil society, and governments. These are key goals to get started on because they require us to start learning and engaging as early as possible.
Dienel: What is your overall approach to achieving these goals?
Hawkins: Every single goal has an executive sponsor, a very senior implementation leader, and a team. All goals require mobilizing the whole company around a theme. Since these goals are brand new, we have not deployed these around the company, and that’s why it’s important to get started.
We want a fast start this year. We have 120 months to achieve these goals. We don’t want to have a year where we haven’t made progress—especially not the first year.
Dienel: How is BSR supporting your work—what is the value of working with BSR on these goals?
Hawkins: We see BSR as a critical value chain partner. You represent a set of companies that are progressive, that are searching for answers, and that want to work together to solve challenges. We have a particular spot in the value chain: We directly or indirectly serve all of your members.
We are very interested in the convening power of BSR: around blueprint dialogues, value chain dialogues, and as a safe place where companies can come together to collaborate. These collaborations involve risk sometimes, and BSR has a strong track record of providing a safe place for experimentation and innovation.
This blog is one in a series highlighting BSR members and their sustainability stories. To learn more about BSR membership, please contact email@example.com, visit the BSR Membership webpage, or join the conversation at #BSRmember.