How Innovation Supports Sustainability

Sustainability defines how countries can meet the needs of their people today without compromising those of future genrations. It has been a guiding priniple for world economic development. How can chemical companies solve the dilemma of spurring development while promoting sustainability? In this dialogue, Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD; Geneva) exchanges views with Dow Corning vice president Jean-Marc Gilson

What is the status of sustainability as a guideline provide a way to improve our social progress potentially valuable commercial properties. We through smarter ways of conducting our activities. are also exploring wind energy generation and for business progress? other forms of ‘green’ energy. Stigson: Sustainability has been taken more into As you look across the range of sustainability consideration by businesses in the past 10-15 issues, what strikes you are the rigidities of the How can an innovation for sustainability be years. We have documented that the most situations we face. Energy systems are pretty fostered in a business environment? ecoefficient companies are also the most rigid because of the great investment involved in successful using such measures as the Dow Jones them. It’s going to be difficult to change our mix Stigson: We are trying to stimulate learning by Sustainability Index. However, there is much left of fossil fuels as energy sources in a reasonable encouraging companies to share best practices. It to do. With population growth of 100 million and time frame. Being big energy users, the chemical is important that they see the business case. more every year, there is a risk of adding to industry is in a position to take a leading role in When you focus on reducing pollution, by existing environmental degradation, and of energy efficiency. utilizing raw materials better, you often improve tipping the balance against natural ecosystems. financial results. Gilson: The current energy situation is both a Gilson: We are guided by three sustainability challenge and a tremendous business opportunity. Gilson: Our new ventures group within ‘pillars’ as defined by WBCSD: environmental, We have invested in emerging technologies such Dow Corning represents a critically important social, and economic. We want to be involved in as photovoltaic cells and materials for highly way in which we foster innovation. It provides an businesses that have a positive, or at least no net- energy efficient light-emitting diodes (LED) for environment in which we can move fast and take negative, ecological impact. We want to provide illumination. Both of these play to our strengths risks. It allows us to invest in a variety of new a social benefit that improves the quality of life in understanding silicon chemistry. technologies, both within and outside of humankind. And we want to be in businesses Dow Corning, and to speed them to market. We that can sustain themselves by accepted financial We are working to drive down the cost of send our researchers to customers’ and partners’ measures. These principles are also worked into electricity generation via photovoltaics to make laboratories, and bring researchers from outside our corporate code of conduct. What we’ve seen them a viable alternative to combustion or other into Dow Corning laboratories. in our experiences in the marketplace is that processes. In the case of LED’s–which are well sustainability, as an operating principle, doesn’t along the road to commercialization - We are committed to developing or investing in new technology to support work if it’s imposed from outside an organization. Dow Corning and LED manufacturers are in a promising It has to be accepted by all inside an organization position n ultimately to replace all incandescent sustainability wherever it occurs. We work as a guiding principle. With that in place, the light bulbs. They are terribly inefficient and can closely with our customers to help them develop abilities of people are harnessed to achieving the be replaced by long-lasting, solid-state electronic their businesses and create new markets. We have devices. It is estimated that by the year 2025 valued partners in many of our new ventures. We goal. solid-state lighting could reduce the global also have a venture-capital fund to invest in new What is the place of innovation in addressing amount of electricity used for lighting by 50%. research opportunities. Looking farther down the road, we have invested Smart innovation series sustainability goals? in new biotechnology research to develop Dow Corning is a registered trademark of Dow Stigson: Innovation and new technology provide enzymatic- or plant-based methods for producing Corning Corporation. a counterweight to business as usual. If we want silicone compounds. This could have the double to continue improving living standards alongside advantage of being a more energy-efficient way population growth, we will put a heavy weight on to produce chemicals with siliconcarbon bonds, ©2004 Dow Corning Corporation. the planet. Innovations and new technology as well as a way to produce new silicones with All rights reserved.

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