Dow Corning green innovation

As mentioned in this week’s news roundup, I attended Dow Corning’s worldwide press conference (this one held in New York last week) where part of their agenda is to reinforce the company’s goals toward sustainability.

Dow Corning is a major silicone producer based in Midland, Michigan. The company plans for more than 50% of its R&D projects to geared towards sustainability. In an interview with Dow Corning’s CEO Stephanie Burns, she noted that 40-45% of the company’s innovation projects are already linked in sustainability.

“So that 50% target is expected to increase soon,” she said. “For us sustainability is a business opportunity, the way in which we can become the supplier of choice and a business partner of choice, by meeting the needs of both our customers and of society.”

A significant focus for Dow Corning is the solar industry, which the company entered nine years ago. Burns noted the Obama administration’s commitment to renewable energy, which she said, is another driver of their investment commitment as well to solar and wind energy markets.

Dow Corning has already committed almost $5bn to renewable energy investmentsworldwide including last year’s polysilicon crystalline expansioncapacity from their joint venture company Hemlock Semiconductor Group.

The company is also working on addressing water conservation issueswith their silicone technology. Some of their projects include:

  • A silicone/enzyme-based softening technology called EcoSoftener in the manufacture of blue jeans and clothing. Dow Corningsaid the technology was able to save 4 gallons of water for every bluejeans made or 7.9bn gallons for 1.9bn pairs of jeans made annually.

  • A powdered shampoo in satchel geared for the Indianmarket. The shampoo would just require a cup of water to use. (I dowonder how much water needed to rinse though…). This technology isstill in the development stage.

  • A next-generation silicone rubber technologies indrip irrigation systems to help Chinese potato farmers, Indian palm oilproducers and sugarcane farmers in the Philippines save water use by40%.

Other green projects the company announced in the past 12 months include green tire development with specialty chemical company Rhodia and natural personal care ingredients development and collaboration with Elevance Renewable Science.

The company is also working on green construction and automotive technologies.

Finally, Dow Corning said they are also walking the walk and talkingthe talk when it comes to green power. The company has installed solarpanels in their manufacturing facility in Germany, and in the processof installing panels in their corporate headquarters in Michigan, whichis already powered with wind energy. Another wind farm is in theprocess of being installed in their Belgium facility.

“This effort will prevent 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the environment,” said Burns.

For additional information from ICIS news (subscription required):

US Dow Corning to target R&D to sustainability-09/06/2009-ICIS News

Solar may reach grid parity in 5 years – US Dow Corning CEO-09/06/2009-ICIS News

Dow Corning expands Xiameter, refocuses on innovation-09/06/2009-ICIS News

Also check out Paul Hodge’s take on Dow Corning’s sustainability and innovation transformation on his Chemicals and The Economy blog.

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