We’re moving forward with the realization that, if we want our world to change, we’re going to have to play a more active part.
Recently, I took time to reflect on the last few months. They have been some of the most challenging in our company’s 123-year history. It’s certainly been some of the toughest times I can remember in my years with Dow.
None of us envisioned the magnitude of the health crisis that is COVID. None of us envisioned the economic upheaval. None of us envisioned the civil unrest over racial and social injustice. None of us envisioned how ALL of this would come crashing down and affect us in such personal ways.
I do believe that when social scientists and political scientists look back – maybe a year from now or maybe a decade – they’ll tell us we should have envisioned it. I suspect they’ll conclude that the warning signs were flashing red for each of these crises to occur. And I strongly suspect they’ll tell us that – in the end – all these crises were related.
How do we use these circumstances to make us better and the world around us better? That’s been a constant question at Dow since the very beginning of the COVID crisis.
It’s one reason I’ve been so proud of the way our people have come together to manage us through these issues. The Dow team hasn’t let the uncertainties of these crises paralyze them. Instead, they’ve adapted and adjusted. They’ve kept moving forward – into action.
In the early days of the coronavirus, there seemed to be a shortage of just about everything. But there was a special urgency around the shortage of personal protective equipment and healthcare supplies.
As a materials science company, Dow doesn’t make any personal protective gear itself. But that didn’t stop our scientists from designing and even fabricating a new face shield for healthcare workers. They went into the labs, realized they could develop something better and they simply did it.
At the same time, we didn’t make hand sanitizer. But many of our customers were urging us to begin. So, our teams went to the labs, looked at our capabilities, and said “Yeah, we can do that.” And they did. They modified some of our manufacturing plants. They tapped into our supply and logistics line. They worked with the government to certify our product. And, in a matter of weeks, it was in production.
Shortly afterwards, disaster struck really close to home for a lot of our colleagues here at our headquarters. Historic flooding – combined with dam failures above Midland – caused millions of dollars in damage. A lot of Dow families – and an even greater number of our neighbors – were displaced and their homes and businesses left in ruins.
Again, Dow colleagues stepped up. Even before the water had receded, they came together to provide vital support. They organized and operated a series of relief centers – staffed mostly by Dow volunteers. They tapped our customers for critical donations. And our customers – many of whom we are helping through COVID – responded in a big way. So much so, in fact, we had to solve yet another unexpected problem on the fly: where to store and manage all those donations that were arriving from all over the country.
In a masterstroke of quick thinking, our teams developed a plan to use one of Dow’s hangars at the local airport as a hub to collect, sort and distribute those supplies as they were flown into the city.
In February, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in Georgia. A month later, Breonna Taylor was killed in Louisville. And a month after Breonna Taylor... George Floyd – on video – in Minneapolis for all the world to see.
Racial injustice – over and over again.
Dow has – for many years – been striving to make ourselves a more inclusive and diverse company.
It’s a fundamental belief of mine that we’re a better company – a smarter company – and a more creative company when we’re fueled by a diversity of thought and a diversity of experiences. That belief is shared – by the way – by our entire leadership team and our Board.
I’ll be the first to say our journey has never been as fast as I’ve wanted it to. But I took some comfort that my own position – as an out leader with Dow – was a sign we were making progress. Over the last few months, it quickly became clear to me – and clear to our Board of Directors – that progress wasn’t happening as fast as it should.
So, we listened to our employees, partners and community. Then, we put together an action plan. We actually call it ACT – for Advocacy, Community and Talent.
We recognize we’re not moving quickly enough and – at the same time – we’re committing ourselves and our company to do more. It’s a public marker for the world to hold us accountable.
In many ways, all of these examples are classic Dow. As a company of scientists and engineers, we love to solve problems. I’ve never seen a happier group of people simply roll up their sleeves and get to work than Dow people when handed a challenge.
We’re moving forward with the realization that, if we want our world to change, we’re going to have to play a more active part. It’s no longer enough for us to be a participant in addressing the significant challenges facing our planet, we have to be a leader.
Jim Fitterling, Chairman and CEO