More regulations will not promote more sustainability - US Dow

02 December 2009 20:30  [Source: ICIS news]

MARCO ISLAND, Florida (ICIS news)--Simply adding more regulations will not promote sustainability, a Dow Chemical executive said on Wednesday.

"We have to innovate into these answers. We can't just regulate changes," said David Kepler, chief sustainability officer and chief information officer for Dow.

Kepler was speaking at the opening ceremonies for the 38th annual meeting of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD).

Balancing social, economic and environmental factors, "sustainability is not something you do after you have made your money", Kepler said. "If you do not integrate sustainability into your economic plans, you are sub-optimising."

For its part, Dow has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by over 20% since 1990, "more than required by the Kyoto Protocol", Kepler said. "But until a few years ago, we looked at this as a footprint problem, not a business opportunity. Driving energy efficiency helped give Dow a different mindset."

The company's current bill for energy and feedstocks is roughly $20bn (€13.2bn), "but it was $35bn a few years ago", Kepler said.

Dow's joint venture in Brazil, turning sugarcane into polyethylene (PE), is an example of achieving sustainability and cost reduction, Kepler said. "In Brazil, the economics of sugarcane are cheaper than oil."

However, "a sustainable solution for Brazil may not work elsewhere", and it is imperative to recognise the trends of a region, as well as any greater megatrends, he said.

"We are at the point where chemistry will hit a new decade, [and] we need to look at technology optimisation combined with sustainability issues," he said.

The NACD's annual meeting is taking place in Marco Island, Florida, until 4 December.

($1 = €0.66)

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By: Ivan Lerner
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