Making a Case for Nature

Dow is placing a big bet on the value of nature, committing to find $1 billion by 2025 in business value from projects that are good for the Company and better for ecosystems. One of the seven goals outlined in our 2025 Sustainability Goals, the Valuing Nature goal is a first-ever commitment by a corporation to consider nature in all of its business decisions.

Meeting this goal could be a game-changer, not just for Dow but also for the business community as a whole, said Mary Draves, global director, Environmental Remediation and Restoration for Dow. Right now, the value of nature is largely ignored in business decisions. By 2020, all of Dow’s capital, real estate and R&D projects will need to go through a nature screen as part of the regular approval process.

“This means thousands of projects every year will be evaluated for how they benefit from or impact nature – fundamentally changing the way Dow does business,” Draves explained. “No one else is even remotely thinking this big. This is groundbreaking.”

The Valuing Nature goal builds on work Dow has done in partnership with The Nature Conservancy that began in 2011. Scientists, engineers and economists from both organizations have worked together to analyze the various services that nature provides to Dow operations and the community. Those ecosystem services include water, land, air, oceans and a variety of plant and animal life.

For example, research at our Freeport, Texas, site demonstrated how asset protection strategies that incorporate marshes with more conventional infrastructure, such as dikes and levees, could better protect our business assets from storms and flooding than conventional infrastructure alone.

“The research increased our understanding of coastal habitats and gave us a model we can use and replicate to analyze asset protection strategies at other sites,” Draves says.

Introducing a New Nature-Based Solutions Tool

In early 2016, Dow and The Nature Conservancy released the ESII Tool (Ecosystem Services Identification and Inventory), which can offer strong insight into nature-based solutions for businesses. The tool, based on extensive work done at Dow locations in Texas and Brazil, enables a trained technician to answer questions about an ecosystem and deliver output data that can be integrated into financial models. By understanding baseline conditions and natural design alternatives, companies can make decisions with nature taken into account.

“We are not only helping build the case for why businesses should invest in nature, but we also have developed the tools and methodology,” explains Neil C. Hawkins, chief sustainability officer and corporate vice President for Environment, Health & Safety. “We are now mainstreaming these tools across our businesses to support the implementation of our Valuing Nature goal. Ultimately, we also would like to see these tools adopted by other businesses, so as a society we can more effectively restore and protect nature even as we understand how nature can deliver significant value to business.”

Learn more about how Dow and The Nature Conservancy are incorporating the value of nature into business strategy.