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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Jul/Aug 2002 : Cover Story

Cover Story

DuPont's Pathways to Sustainability

More Cover Story Articles

- The Challenge of Sustainable Growth
- DuPont's Pathways to Sustainability
- A "Value-Added" Metric
- Four Goals


For a company to embark on a process of sustainable growth, Holliday says, its leaders and its employees have to understand two critical pieces of information. It has to know what it values and it has to know how it creates value. Here, he talks about how DuPont’s transformation for sustainable growth plays out internally.

“At DuPont, we have a very clear appreciation of both those understandings. Our founder E. I. du Pont would recognize few of the products we sell today. But he would have no trouble comprehending the values that drive us. Safety, health and environ-mental stewardship; integrity and high ethical standards; and treating people fairly and with respect have been part of the DuPont culture from the beginning.

“Every time we have changed over 200 years, the first step in the change process has been to remind ourselves what the fixed points on the compass are. Certain things are not negotiable. Those are our values.

“Another thing that 200 years of history has made very clear to us is that we also know how we create value. At DuPont, we create value with science and technology and the knowledge that goes with them.

“In the 20th century we learned how to combine physics and chemistry to create new materials such as nylon, Teflon®, Lycra® and Kevlar® that changed the way the people build, move, communicate and clothe themselves. By the 1980s it was apparent that at the molecular level the sciences of chemistry and biology were beginning to overlap, and it occurred to us that our future opportunities would be as much in biology as in chemistry. We began to develop our capability in biotechnology. We see in these sciences enormous potential for meeting human needs and for making our future world more sustainable.

“Integrating sciences is the first of three pathways that will help us to become a sustainable growth company. Consider biology and polymers. Thirty years ago when I joined DuPont, a chemical industry executive wouldn’t have said those two words in the same breath. Thirty years from now it will be hard to tell them apart. We’re beginning to discover how to use renewable crop ingredients, together with biological organisms to modify them, to make materials we couldn’t make before—or to make existing materials with reduced raw material and energy inputs.

“Our second pathway to sustainable growth is knowledge intensity—adding more knowledge content to what we sell. For example, DuPont has entered into an agreement with simplyengineering Corp. of Ontario to provide some of our engineering know-how on the Internet. DuPont has more than 2,000 guidelines and engineering programs that encompass every facet of operating a plant. simplyengineering will host our copyrighted corporate engineering guidelines, calculations and models and make the material available on the Web site for licensing to global clients.

“DuPont is also known around the world for our leadership in work place safety. Today, this knowledge is a business trademarked as Safe Returns™ and in the last six months we have added companies totaling over 30,000 employees to the DuPont Safe Returns environment. How does this make us more sustainable? By generating more value with less “stuff” we make our company more sustainable.

“Our third strategic pathway is productivity. No company can afford not to be focused on productivity in today’s marketplace. At DuPont, we have adopted six sigma methodology. At year-end 2000, we had 1,100 black belts and 1,700 green belts working on 4,200 ongoing or completed projects. The annual run rate of our pretax benefit from projects completed and underway exceeds $1 billion.

“Nevertheless, I do not want to leave you with the impression that we have it all figured out. We are a long way from being sustainable. And because of that, I believe that it is valuable for a company to set itself stretch goals that will help take it to the next level.”

A "Value-Added" Metric -->>

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