In 2020, the novel COVID-19 virus upended life for people across the globe. Shutdowns to prevent the spread of the virus changed everything, from the way we work to the way we gather and learn, and also disrupted supply chains. Frontline workers faced critical shortages for medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and hand sanitizers. This combination of demands created significant challenges across our operations. But as a company built on problem-solving, Team Dow responded.
Our first priority was the health and safety of our people. Because Dow products and technologies are essential to support the needs of the medical community in the fight against this pandemic, the vast majority of our manufacturing operations ran full steam ahead.
To keep our people safe, we quickly put in place crisis protocols. We conducted temperature monitoring of employees and contractors to reduce potential exposure risk, changed our work procedures to increase social distancing between coworkers, and provided hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial surface wipes as well as heightened sanitizing protocols. We also posted sitewide guidelines at entry and exit points, and ensured employees had access to a supply of PPE.
We required employees who can work from home to do so, and a large percentage of our workforce shifted to working remotely. Soon, we were conducting 25,000 virtual meetings a day using video capability, allowing our teams to stay connected to our customers and one another, despite the physical distance.
Throughout the pandemic, Dow teams have searched for a better understanding of how our assets and products can help fight the virus. To respond to shortages of critical supplies for frontline workers, we shifted our manufacturing lines and created new solutions to help fill the global shortage of personal protective equipment and medical supplies. This included ramping up raw material production for safety and hygiene products, donating PPE and developing an open-source face shield design.
One example: We adjusted manufacturing processes to make hand sanitizer – a product we haven’t produced before – at five of our sites. Our Industrial Solutions team also kicked off a rapid project at our Texas City facility to produce new quantities of isopropyl alcohol, an important raw material for sanitizer, and medical and pharmaceutical applications.
We’ve partnered with nonprofits, governments and businesses across the globe to provide aid to frontline workers and help protect vulnerable populations. In 2020, we committed more than $4 million to help fund global COVID-19 relief organizations and to support nonprofits in communities who are serving those in need.
Across the world, Team Dow rallied to help their communities – donating personal protective equipment to first responders, bringing food and health supplies to the homeless and migrant workers, and providing their expertise through virtual volunteerism. For example, in Malaysia and Egypt, we donated care packages for more than 2,000 low-income families. In Singapore, Dow employees helped raise funds for migrant workers heavily impacted by the pandemic, providing phone plans to connect migrants to families back home. And in Saudi Arabia, we donated surplus computer equipment to a nonprofit organization to support distance learning for local students in need.
As the pandemic has progressed, it also became evident how it negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. In February 2021, Dow announced new mental health investments in partnership with local and global nonprofits, donating nearly $500,000 to connect community members and employees to essential services for their psychological safety and well-being.
See a timeline of our actions.
Team Dow includes approximately 35,700 employees worldwide. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, more than 14,000 members of Team Dow continued to work on site, keeping our manufacturing and laboratory sites running safely, serving our customers. At the same time, 22,000 team members have roles that have allowed them to work from home. As the COVID-19 pandemic enters a new phase, Dow has developed a coordinated plan to safely guide our employees and contractors back to the workplace. Our key principle in this approach is keeping our employees and their families safe and healthy.
The corporate Crisis Management Team (CMT) is overseeing the process while regional CMTs are implementing it in a phased approach. This provides the flexibility to tailor our return to workplace based on local, country and regional factors, while still aligning to our Corporate Pandemic Crisis Management Plan. Throughout the process, we are involving key stakeholders, such as site and tenant leadership, regional CMT core functions, unions and works councils, local governments, and key industry associations. Our comprehensive plan is captured in the Return to Workplace Playbook, which we shared widely with others, including thousands of downloads from our website.
Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increased the need for supplies and equipment for health care workers and drove innovation. In Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada, Sanny Chan, a Dow improvement engineer, has coached a Dow-sponsored FIRST® Robotics team for six years and the team wanted to do what they could to help address this critical need. The FTC 10544 Cyber Eagles FIRST® Robotics team developed hand sanitizer holsters that health care workers could wear to keep sanitizer easily accessible, saving time and frustration. In total, 250 holsters were 3D printed. Sanny and her team also produced more than 16,000 “ear savers” for local hospitals, clinics, emergency responders and other community organizations. The “ear savers” were designed to prevent irritation from facial covering masks worn by medical professionals.
EH&S Auditing overcame COVID- 19-related challenges by rapidly constructing and implementing a virtual auditing program in early April 2020. The program uses remote video tools where possible to increase audit coverage. New auditing techniques were identified that will serve as the basis for future program improvements, even after COVID-19-related challenges subside.