Campus & Community

Dow Chemical-Nature Conservancy collaboration honored

5 min read

Will be presented with the 2013 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership on Oct. 7

The Harvard Kennedy School will present the 2013 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership on Monday to the Dow Chemical Co. and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for their groundbreaking collaborative work to incorporate the value of natural resources into the business bottom line.

To celebrate the award, leaders of Dow and TNC will take part in a panel discussion at Harvard Kennedy School Monday at 5 p.m. to describe their development of tools and models to integrate the value of forests, watersheds, and biodiversity into more-sustainable business and community decisions. The panel, “Valuing Nature: Saving Ecosystems Is Good Business,” will also detail steps that other corporations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can take to protect our natural resources as businesses continue to grow.

The award is presented every two years to celebrate an outstanding public-private partnership project that enhances environmental quality through novel and creative approaches. The prize is awarded through the Environment and Natural Resources Program in the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The Dow-TNC collaboration is an innovative collaboration between the Dow Chemical Co. and The Nature Conservancy to research the value of ecosystem services. Established in 2011, the five-year project combines the expertise of Dow, one of the world’s largest chemical manufacturers, and TNC, the foremost global land and water conservation organization, to develop tools and models that incorporate the value of natural resources into business decisions.

Ecosystems provide valuable services for communities and companies. Measuring the value of water, land, air, oceans, plants, and animals to a company or community is difficult, and as a result, business decisions are often made without taking natural assets into account. The Dow-TNC collaboration employs a science-based, measurable approach to help companies understand how to incorporate the value of nature into business decisions. The ecosystem services framework has long been hailed by academics as a viable mechanism for valuing nature, but has not been practically applied — until now.

In January 2011, Dow and TNC launched their five-year collaboration to promote valuing ecosystem services in business decision-making. Since the launch, Dow and TNC have worked together to identify key ecosystem services that Dow relies on as well as the environmental impacts of priority Dow manufacturing sites around the world. Scientists from TNC and Dow are working together at selected Dow pilot sites to implement and refine models that support corporate decision-making by taking into consideration the value and resources that ecosystem services provide. These sites serve as “living laboratories” where Dow and TNC are testing methods and models of ecosystem valuation so they can be used to inform more sustainable business decisions at Dow and influence the decision-making and business practices of other companies globally.

The collaboration recently completed its first pilot at Dow’s facility in Freeport, Texas, the company’s largest manufacturing facility; it is currently in the midst of the second pilot in Santa Vitoria, Brazil. A major goal of this collaboration is to produce results and findings that are replicable and transferable to Dow’s other 135 sites. In addition, most of the methodologies, tools, and results will be shared publicly with the hope that other companies, NGOs, and governments can make use of them as well.

“Valuing natural services is a critical step in protecting our environment — and one that should be replicated around the globe,” said Henry Lee, director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program at HKS, in announcing the 2013 award winner.

Neil Hawkins, vice president of global environment, health, and safety (EH&S) and sustainability at Dow, said, “This award is recognition not only of this unique collaboration, but truly a win for sustainable business. We hope to incorporate the value of nature into decision-making — not only at Dow but also across the broader business community, inspiring others to invest in nature as well.”

“Our collaboration shows how companies and public-interest organizations can work together to make economic growth a force for conservation,” said Glenn Prickett, chief external affairs officer for The Nature Conservancy. “By studying the value of nature and incorporating it in business decisions, the private sector can become a powerful agent not only for economic development, but for conserving the healthy lands and waters on which our economy depends.”

The partnership was selected from a group of highly qualified projects nominated from around the world that tackle tough environmental problems ranging from sustainable mining in developing countries to reducing the pollution associated with textile manufacturing. Experts around the world reviewed the nominees with the following criteria: innovation, effectiveness, significance, and transferability.

The Roy Family has been a longtime supporter of the development of public-private partnerships to meet social goals. The Roy Family Award attempts to provide positive incentives for companies and organizations worldwide to push the boundaries of creativity and take risks that result in significant changes that benefit the environment.

The purpose of the Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership is to draw attention to an exceptional partnership and its achievements while inspiring others to replicate or expand upon its success.