Dow’s blueprint for valuing nature

Dow’s Valuing Nature Goal, part of its 2025 Sustainability Goals, sets out to achieve $1 billion in net present value through projects that are good for business and better for ecosystems. It is built on a simple premise: When a company makes a fully informed decision on how its operations rely on and affect nature, it can lead to better outcomes for business and conservation.

The Valuing Nature Blueprint outlines the six steps Dow used to build the business case for integrating nature conservation across the company and collaborating with others who share our vision. This blueprint shares that journey from planting the visionary seed to producing the seed for others to plant.

The Blueprint: Six Steps of Valuing Nature

Substainability blueprint

1. Set the vision

Plant the seed.

While evaluating Dow’s 2005-2015 Sustainability Goals and in the spirit of striving for continued improvement, the question was asked: How else can we advance sustainability in business? The answer: Nature. Recognizing we are not nature experts; we reached out to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and started a strategic collaboration in 2011.

Built on a shared vision to make a business case for nature, the collaboration led to the creation of the Valuing Nature Sustainability Goal, part of Dow’s 10-year 2025 Sustainability Goals launched in 2015. This ambitious goal set a target to deliver $1 billion in net present value by 2025 through projects that are good for business and better for nature and gave the company, stakeholders, and employees a clear vision of Dow’s ambition to prioritize nature as a stakeholder. A passionate Valuing Nature team was formed to help incorporate a nature lens in decision-making across Dow’s global business and drive collaborations that are a win-win-win for Dow, nature and potential collaborators.

2. Build awareness

Help ideas sprout.

Just as a seed needs to be planted in nutrient-rich soil to thrive, Dow’s culture also needed to nurture and drive the success of the Valuing Nature Goal. Internal awareness and corporate culture change were important factors in helping Team Dow see the financial opportunity of applying a nature lens to business decisions.

By hosting nature goal workshops and communicating success stories through case studies and sharing promotional videos, employees began to understand the value in nature capital and how they can contribute. For Dow, a pipeline of projects came from four key areas: process improvements, nature-based solutions, conservation, and new products. Active participation helps move from early adoption to mainstream action. 

3. Embed tools

A nature lens takes root.

The aim is to embed a Nature Valuation Methodology into existing work processes. For the Valuing Nature Goal to take root, Dow employees, who are typically not well-versed in ecology and conservation sciences, needed easy-to-use tools to make better decisions about valuing nature. By applying a Nature Valuation Methodology, business decisions can be made that consider not just business value but also nature capital value. The methodology includes a three-tiered project valuation methodology (Guertin et al. 2019):
  • An initial screen to identify potential opportunities at a very early stage of a project.
  • A subsequent analysis to identify and quantify environmental impacts of the proposed project using the Ecosystem Services Identification and Inventory (ESII) tool, or traditional Life Cycle Analysis.
  • A final step that considers and compares the financial and natural capital returns associated with the various project alternatives referred to as scorecard.

4. Collaborate externally

Branch out!

At Dow, we realize Valuing Nature is intrinsically outward-focused. Branching out into the world can help grow impact and bring mutual benefits to Dow, its collaborators and nature. Collaborators can be from a variety of sectors (e.g., government, non-governmental organizations, academia, suppliers, or customers) and can bring many different strengths to a project (e.g., expertise, reputation, global reach, or regulatory support). An external stakeholder assessment tool can help identify and prioritize potential collaborators.

Since 2011, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been a key collaborator with Dow in making the business case to value nature. Since then, Dow also has collaborated with organizations from several sectors to incorporate nature into decision-making processes.

5. Track progress

What has blossomed?

Progress toward the goal is not always linear, nor is it always by leaps and bounds. Progress may be many small projects that add up, incrementally contributing to the goal. Or, like a tree weathering a storm, progress can have its setbacks and may potentially need cultural reinforcement. Are employees applying a nature lens to business decisions? Are collaborations at their strongest potential? When assessing environmental returns, how do you weigh trade-offs or competing dimensions?

Although business value is easily measurable in net present value, tracking the value to nature can be more complicated. This can be done through tools such as the ESII Tool or Nature Scorecard developed by TNC and Dow or through a Life Cycle Analysis. A third-party validation may also be appropriate.

6. Inspire and grow

Share the seed, grow the forest.

Dow hopes its Valuing Nature journey and blueprint provide the seed to help other companies and organizations that are seeking to incorporate nature conservation into business decision-making.

Beyond the bottom-line benefits, Dow established its Valuing Nature Goal to demonstrate to other companies how shared risks – such as water scarcity and climate disruption – can become shared opportunities for businesses and communities when they invest in nature-based solutions.

That is why we continue to share all tools, lessons learned and research results publicly and through peer review to enable other companies, scientists and interested parties to test and apply them.

How can science help create a more sustainable world? It takes collaboration and innovation. At Dow, we’re working to deliver a sustainable future for the world by connecting and collaborating to find new options for materials that make life better for everyone. We invite you to build on our blueprint as you plant the seeds of sustainability and profitability in your organization.

Science and Sustainability