Can the Miracles of Science(TM) Deliver Another Miracle?
Leveraging science to deliver innovative solutions that meet the challenges of climate change.
Can the Miracles of ScienceTM Deliver Another Miracle?
DuPont is a science company, leveraging the power of science to address fundamental needs across three dimensions: food, energy, and protection.1 With a breadth of scientific expertise, operations across 90 countries, and a 200+ year history of creating breakthrough technologies, the company is positioned to address the global challenges that arise as a result of climate change.2 At the same time, climate change will impact DuPont’s existing on-going operations with pressure to reduce their carbon footprint and minimize their impact in high water-risk regions.
As a result, DuPont is taking a two-fold approach that ensures their new business developments are driven by market-demands for sustainable technologies, and that their existing businesses are managed to reduce their environmental impact.1 While they are making strides, I believe DuPont needs to ensure they are delivering on short-term financial expectations and needs to improve their external communications. This is necessary to ensure they are positioned to continue making investments in scientific innovations that will have returns in the long-run.
DuPont’s focus on leveraging their scientific platform to address global challenges will be its greatest strength to adapt to the impact climate change will have on business: from addressing pressures on food supply to shifting away from fossil fuels to driving improvements in energy efficiency.3 These challenges can be addressed by DuPont’s core competency of managing the scientific process from discovery through commercialization, and can be seen both directly and indirectly in each of the DuPont businesses. Furthermore, DuPont has taken a comprehensive approach working with collaborators, regulators, NGOs, and the community, which will allow them to continue delivering results to meet both global and local needs.4 This approach is supported both with internal goals and incentives, such as the 2020 Sustainability Goals, as well as external partner award programs to discover unique applications of DuPont products that have a positive impact.5
While a complex issue, DuPont is making a tangible impact in food security by increasing agriculture efficiency through improved yields and crop protection, as well as leveraging existing materials to improve food freshness and reduce waste. Since over 1.3 billion tons of food, or one third of the world’s supply, is wasted in the food chain, DuPont is designing products that can reduce the environmental burden of feeding a global population.6 For example, they are collaborating with Cargolux to utilize Tyvek® for cargo covers that provide temperature protection in-transit, and Parakah Agro to utilize Bynel® for a low-cost pouch that can deliver fresh milk in unrefrigerated conditions. 7,8
Utilizing science to shift away from fossil fuels can be seen directly in the photovoltaics business with improvements to solar technology, such as DuPont Solamet® which can improve solar cell efficiency to 21%.9 Similarly, opening the world’s largest next-generation cellulosic ethanol plant demonstrates DuPont’s commitment to long-term sustainable solutions.10
Investments in indirect technologies are proving equally fruitful. For example, DuPont’s advancements in enzyme technologies have delivered a unique cool-water detergent in collaboration with P&G. Tide Coldwater Clean is able to provide the same level of quality to end customers, while reducing emissions by 32.3 metric tons in the U.S. alone.11 This is an example of a win-win technology for DuPont, collaborators, customers, and the environment.
Overall, each of these examples demonstrates that DuPont’s innovation engine is able to deliver fruitful technologies that deliver financial results, benefit customers, and meet the challenges of climate change.
In addition to developing new technologies, DuPont also needs to address the challenges that arise from their existing manufacturing operations due to increased regulatory pressure, as well as industry and societal expectations. U.S. manufacturing operations account for 80% of industrial carbon-emissions and are the 4th largest source of water usage.12,13 Due to this magnitude, industry has a responsibility to manage their footprint to reduce the impact of the physical manifestations of climate change. Organizations, such as DuPont, are doing so by setting footprint reduction goals across their manufacturing network, such as a 7% reduction in emissions.14
Is it Enough?
While DuPont has tied its strategic priorities to global trends that are influenced by climate change and has made progress towards ongoing sustainability goals, the business reality of delivering on short-term financial expectations could undermine ongoing innovation. For example, significant reductions to basic research could hinder the very competency and innovation pipeline that has sustained the company to-date.15 As a result, the right balance between current returns and long-term investments needs to be attained so the engine that delivers the Miracles of ScienceTM can continue to discover and commercialize the next game-changing miracle.
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- 2016 Global Reporting Initiative Report. DuPont Sustainability Reporting. 2016. [Online] Available at: http://www.dupont.com/content/dam/dupont/corporate/our-approach/sustainability/documents/2016-sustainability-documents/DuPont%202016%20GRI%20Report.pdf
- CDP 2016 Climate Change Information Request. DuPont Sustainability Reporting. 2016. [Online] Available at: http://www.dupont.com/content/dam/dupont/corporate/our-approach/sustainability/documents/2016-sustainability-documents/ProgrammeResponseClimate%20Change%202016.pdf]
- Henderson, R.M., Rienert, S.A., Dekhtyar, P., Migdal, A. Climate Change in 2016: Implications for Business. 2016, Oct 14. Harvard Business School Publishing.
- 2015 Data Book. DuPont Investor Relations: Quarterly and Annual Reports. 2016. [Online] Available at: http://investors.dupont.com/investor-relations/filings-and-reports/quarterly-and-annual-reports/default.aspx.
- Sustainability Infographic. DuPon 2016. [Online] Available at: http://www.dupont.com/corporate-functions/sustainability/sustainability-commitments/goals-progress/sustainability-infographic.html.
- Food Loss and Food Waste. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2016. [Online] Available at: http://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/
- Reducing Food Waste with DuPont™ Tyvek® Air Cargo Covers. DuPont. 2016 [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dupont.co.uk/products-and-services/fabrics-fibers-nonwovens/covers/videos/Video-tyvek-aircargo.html.
- Putrich, G.S. P&G, Plastipak and Parakah Agro win DuPont packaging honors. Plastics News. 2014, May 16. [Online] Available at: http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20140516/NEWS/140519931/pg-plastipak-and-parakah-agro-win-dupont-packaging-honors]
- Ryan, C. TSEC, DuPont to showcase new solar panels at PV EXPO 2015. 2016, Feb 24. [Online] Available at: http://www.pv-tech.org/news/tsec_dupont_to_showcase_new_solar_panels_at_pv_expo_2015.
- Lane, J. DuPont opens world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa. Biofuels Digest. 2015 Nov 1. [Online] Available at: http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2015/11/01/dupont-opens-worlds-largest-celulosic-ethanol-plant-in-iowa-the-full-story-in-pictures/.
- DuPont, P&G product cleans clothes, saves energy. The News Journal. 2014, Mar 15. [Online] Available at: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/money/2014/03/14/dupont-pg-product-cleans-clothes-saves-energy/6432521/.
- Energy-Related Carbon Emissions in Manufacturing. 2016. S. Energy Information Administration. [Online] Available at: https://www.eia.gov/emeu/efficiency/carbon_emissions/carbon_mfg.html.
- Water Use and Conservation in Manufacturing. S. Department of Commerce, Center for Economic Studies. [Online] Available at: http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/Feature%20Story/SDN/Water/events/IWREC2014-Session2A-Water-Use-Manufacturing-RandyBecker-Sept8.pdf
- 2016 Sustainability Progress Report. DuPont Sustainability Reporting. 2016. [Online] Available at: http://www.dupont.com/content/dam/dupont/corporate/our-approach/sustainability/documents/DuPont-Sustainability-Report-2015_111615.pdf.
- Tullo, A.H. Why DuPont Shrunk Its Central Research Unit. Chemical & Engineering News. 2016, Jan 25. [Online] Available at: http://cen.acs.org/articles/94/i4/DuPont-Shrunk-Central-Research-Unit.html.
Student comments on Can the Miracles of Science(TM) Deliver Another Miracle?
Very interesting articles and perspective – My first surprise was that one could trademark “The Miracles of Science”. Dupont did it in 1999 so there was potential a burst of millennial progress ambition.
I fully agree with the conclusive question. The business reality may be too shortsighted. Hence reading through all those goals and research areas, I am asking myself: Given the issue at stake, are public bodies likely more long term investors for challenging innovation?
It would be an interesting study to segregate innovations by magnitude and cost and see where public meets private: nuclear, space, rail, large infra… For instance, nuclear fusion may take more capital than Dupont has and much lower cost of capital.
What we must hope though is that we can save global warming issues ourselves and down here on earth as most prediction seem to show that it would be hard to move everyone to another planet. Plain and simple consequences from the Tsiolkovsky Rocket equation as xkcd casually puts it. Or anyway we would need cutting edge fuel efficiency, think like micro fusion nuclear reactor with high RPM.
So let’s stay here and work this climate change out !
Thank you ASAP for sharing your perspective about DuPont’s actions towards sustainability. One thing that DuPont will have to identify is how to move forward with its sustainability initiates as the company merges with Dow Chemical. Both companies are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint while also increasing food supply. As the companies identify synergies, I hope that they will identify the best way to continue to strive towards sustainability and leverage learnings. As a primary seed supplier, I’m excited to see what new innovations DuPont will release in the coming years. I’m also interested to see how the combined and eventually independent companies will make their mark.
I thought this was a very interesting post. You made great use of evidence to support your views. DuPont is a unique position in that it is able to implement both climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. The areas you’ve focused on (food security, alternative energy, energy efficiency) can have a great impact on other areas likely to be stressed by climate change (e.g. health, local and international conflict, etc.). In response to the question you pose in your last paragraph, I think factoring in these “knock-on” effects can help businesses focus on the long-term impact of their climate change initiatives, despite constant pressure to deliver near-term results.