Valuing Nature Throughout Our Operations
Nature provides people with everything from food and water to drink, to pollination of crops, to timber for shelter. However, few businesses account for nature in their decision-making.
Dow is seeking to help change this. Through our pioneering Valuing Nature Goal, we are seeking to incorporate nature into all of our business decisions. Considering the value of nature in decision-making across a global company like Dow has never been done before. It represents a milestone in the business sector, marking one of the first commitments of its kind by a major corporation.
By 2020, all Dow capital, real estate and R&D projects will have to go through a nature screen as part of the regular approval process. Thousands of projects every year will be evaluated on how they benefit from or impact nature – fundamentally changing the way we do business.
“For us, this is not an exercise in putting a price on nature. It is about shining a light on the many ways businesses depend on and impact nature – so that we can continue to drive transformative change across Dow and inspire others to incorporate nature into their business practices and increase investment in protecting nature’s valuable resources,” said Mary Draves, Dow chief sustainability officer and vice president, EH&S.
Tools for Evaluating Nature
Since 2011, we’ve worked with The Nature Conservancy to figure out how to make valuing nature actionable and operational at the site level and to develop special modeling tools, called Ecosystem Services Identification and Inventory (ESII) tools. These tools are designed to make valuing nature practical and ultimately second “nature” for our project managers and engineers. They are not just for Dow but are available to other businesses and organizations to help in their decision processes.
Finding Value for Dow and the Environment
Since the goal’s launch in 2016, we have achieved more than $270MM in cost savings or new cash flow from projects that are good for business and better for ecosystems. The goal is to create $1 billion by 2025 for the Company by valuing nature in business decisions.
“In just three years, we are more than a quarter of the way to our $1 billion goal,” Draves said. “By bringing nature to the design table when we weigh project solutions, we are generating business value for Dow while also confronting head-on some of the key environmental challenges facing our Company, such as water reliability.”
- At our Elizabethtown, Kentucky, site, a 5-acre wetland was installed to hold the site’s fire water. The wetland helped solve downstream flood and total suspended solids issues that the site was experiencing, while providing a habitat for wildlife.
- In Midland, Michigan, the project team used the ESII tools to compare the economic and environmental benefits of capping an abandoned ash pond versus restoring it to a wetland. Dow chose to restore the wetland, providing benefits to the local ecosystem while eliminating the costs that would have been required to install a traditional cap system, including long-term maintenance, groundwater treatment and monitoring.
- At our Aratu site in Brazil, we engineered a gabion wall to help stabilize a slope. In installing these walls, the Aratu team saved money over conventional solutions and reduced the amount of energy and materials required for the project. The result was less forest being removed and a living slope in place of a concrete wall.