It's Time to Step Up:SustainabilityCan't Be a Distant Goal

DuPont Chairman and CEO Charles Holliday Jr. says the pace of society's transition to products and services that meet the definition of "sustainable" will accelerate.

DuPont Chairman and CEO Charles Holliday Jr. says the pace of society's transition to products and services that meet the definition of "sustainable" will accelerate. The reasons are threefold: the synergistic effect of market demand, public expectations, and product innovation. "Sustainability is increasingly becoming central to the total value proposition," he told those attending a recent meeting in Chicago of the Executives' Club. "Sustainable growth means creating value for our shareholders and for society by developing products that the market demands and which also are good for the environment and for the health, safety, and well-being of people everywhere. This will not only impact our business but every customer — and through their products — every consumer we touch." Holliday predicts that DuPont's sustainability commitments will generate $6 billion in additional revenues by 2015. Expanded business offerings will address safety, environmental, energy, and climate challenges facing global markets. He described the company's sustainability commitments as taking a holistic approach that is integrated into its business models and that span all its operations from R&D to manufacturing. "Science and innovation that does not address pressing human needs will not advance sustainability. Likewise, a vision of sustainability detached from science and technology will not succeed. We need both the commitment of sustainability and accomplishments of science. For DuPont, sustainable growth is not a distant goal. It's about products and services we have in the marketplace right now and products that are moving through our R&D pipeline." DuPont, which was one of the first companies to publicly establish environmental goals two decades ago, has broadened its sustainability commitments beyond internal footprint reduction to include market-driven targets for revenue and R&D investment. The goals are tied directly to business growth, specifically to the development of safer and environmentally improved new products for the company's key global markets, which include transportation, building and construction, agriculture and food, and communications. Among DuPont's products are Bio-PDO, which is made using corn and is the key ingredient for polymer used in carpeting and apparel, and Pioneer seeds, which use advanced plant genetics to develop higher yield, higher quality crops. By 2015, DuPont has committed to the following goals: • To double its R&D investment in environmentally smart market opportunities • To double revenues to $8 billion from non-depletable resources • To grow annual revenues $2 billion or more from products that create energy efficiency and/or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for its customers • To introduce at least 1,000 new safety products or services Linda Fisher, DuPont's chief sustainability officer, also spoke on the subject of sustainability recently. At the recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Burlington, VT, she said: "Some companies say that what's good for the environment can also be good for business. We believe that what's good for business must also be good for the environment and for people everywhere around the world." Fisher was part of the conference's Corporate Green panel. She joined representatives from Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and other companies in discussing the ways businesses have been embracing sustainability to make a difference for both shareholders and society in general.