Sustainability Case Study: Investing in Sustainability Leaders of the Future

MBA student at recycling facilityTo address global challenges, the world needs leaders who understand the value of sustainability and collaborative, blueprint-style thinking to drive change. At Dow, we are investing in employees and students to help develop the sustainability leaders of the future.

Sustainability Academy

Since its 2017 launch, the Sustainability Academy has provided 116 Dow employees in three cohorts with the hands-on experience and tools needed to bring sustainability business insights into their jobs. The Academy, a partnership with the Erb Institute of the University of Michigan, has been popular with employees and yielded long-lasting business results. Employee participants are selected through a competitive nomination process to participate in a six-month experience that includes:

  • An immersive four days on the University of Michigan campus, learning the fundamentals of sustainability from professors in the field
  • Completion of a team project aligned with a Dow 2025 Sustainability Goal and supported by an expert mentor
  • An opportunity to present project results and network with Dow leaders at a forum to close the cohort

The program is currently under consideration for expansion to other geographies so that more Dow employees can benefit from this unique experience.

Dow Sustainability Fellows

The Dow Sustainability Fellows Program is supported by funding from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation and engagement of Dow professionals. During the six years of this collaboration with the University of Michigan, 315 graduate students (master’s, doctoral) and postdoctoral professionals have completed the program. A key driver of the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program is to prepare future leaders to make a difference in organizations worldwide.

Master’s fellows are the core of the program. Approximately 265 master’s/professional students have been named Dow Fellows. These fellows form interdisciplinary teams of four to six fellows each and work directly with a client or community. Each year, teams of Dow Fellows analyze options and develop actionable recommendations on particular sustainability challenges. Student-led teams have addressed significant projects in Michigan, regionally or globally. Dow professionals serve as consultants to project teams, provide resources and expertise, and have led skill sessions focusing on project management. University of Michigan faculty serve as academic advisors to teams, overseeing research methods.

In 2018, program evaluation efforts focused primarily on an analysis of 200 alumni of the master’s fellow program and the clients who previously engaged in team-based projects with them. The Dow Fellows Program experience met or exceeded expectations for 86 percent of alumni. In a recent survey, program alumni indicated that the objectives of the program — support graduate students committed to finding interdisciplinary, actionable and meaningful sustainability solutions, and prepare the sustainability leaders of tomorrow to make a difference in organizations worldwide — are largely being met.

WE Are Innovators

WE Are Innovators was created by Dow and the non-profit WE to inspire the next generation of diverse innovators to learn about global issues. Through the application of chemistry and science, students are challenged to bring to life innovative ideas to solve some of their community’s most pressing issues.

Whether it is helping people gain access to healthy food, efficient transportation and infrastructure, safe housing, sustainable energy or protecting the local environment, this unique campaign is designed to inspire youth to innovate to drive change. Education modules, mentorship and tools are provided for students to create a solution to a local or global challenge, with a chance to enter their project to win a grant for their community or participate in a service-learning trip.

In its first academic year of 2017/2018, the campaign was piloted in Midland, Mich.; Plaquemine, La.; Pottstown, Pa.; Freeport, Texas; and in the Rayong Province in Thailand. Seven schools received transformative grants to bring their social innovation to life. Additionally, 17 high school students and educators were awarded the opportunity to gain hands-on volunteer experience on a service-learning trip in Ecuador with WE. In fall 2018, the WE Are Innovators campaign was expanded the challenge to all interested schools for participation.

Read more about Dow's 2025 Goals progress in the 2018 Sustainability Report. Visit the Highlights and Reporting page for more case studies.