Innovation for a Sustainable Future

Innovation for a Sustainable Future: A Conversation

As part of our new 2020 Sustainability Goals, we have committed to further embed sustainability in our innovation process, which will have important implications for our business strategy, as well as for global efforts to contribute to a safer, healthier and more sustainable world. Linda Fisher, Vice President – DuPont Safety, Health & Environment and Chief Sustainability Officer, and Douglas Muzyka, PhD, Senior Vice President and Chief Science & Technology Officer, discuss the company’s new 2020 Sustainable Innovation Goal and what it means for DuPont and society at large going forward.

Linda Fisher

Vice President - DuPont Safety Health & Environment and Chief Sustainability Officer

Why is DuPont so explicitly linking innovation and sustainability?

Linda: This isn’t something wholly new, but rather, the logical evolution of a process we started several years ago, when we began to more intentionally embed sustainability into our business strategy. We believed then—as we do now—that for a company as focused as ours is on harnessing the power of science to address global challenges, strengthening the linkages between innovation and sustainability makes good sense. That includes every step of the innovation process, including R&D.

How does the 2020 Sustainable Innovation Goal relate to the company’s previous goals on making and providing sustainable solutions for its customers?

Linda: This builds on our previous goal to double our R&D investment in products with quantifiable environmental benefits. We exceeded that goal and since 2007 have invested approximately $5 billion in R&D programs that will deliver environmental benefits. As a result, we challenged ourselves to set the bar higher and do even more to embed sustainability in our innovation portfolio. The result was this new Sustainable Innovation Goal that has as its ultimate aim to further guide our choices in favor of products that promote a healthier, safer and more sustainable world. We will track our progress and measure the quantifiable benefits of our major growth innovations. Of course, this is a goal, and we have to recognize that there may be products that offer societal value not directly related to safety, health or sustainability. But our aim is to challenge every innovation to contribute in these areas.

Practically-speaking, how will this goal be realized?

Douglas: For science-based companies like DuPont, innovations are the result of a complex, multi-stage process that starts with customer needs, continues through early stage discovery, development and ultimately through launch and commercialization. Throughout each of these steps, myriad decisions are made about allocation of resources, prioritization of projects and market viability. Now, we will add to this mix the potential for our pipeline products to contribute to a safer, healthier and more sustainable world, as an explicit criterion in our decision process for major growth innovations. We’re embedding it in the hearts and minds of people all across our company, including those who are responsible for turning promising ideas into innovative solutions.

Douglas Muzyka, PhD

Senior Vice President and Chief Science & Technology Officer

How will you measure success in meeting this goal?

Douglas: Through 2020, we will track our progress and measure and report the quantifiable safety, health and sustainability benefits from major growth innovations. It will demonstrate that our commitment to sustainable innovation is rooted in a strong belief in the crucial role innovation can play in addressing some of our world’s most pressing environmental and societal challenges.

 

 

What do you mean by “safer, healthier and more sustainable” as your measurement criteria for your 2020 Sustainable Innovation goal?

Linda: These words have very direct application to this goal. For example, “safer” can translate to improved food safety and quality, as well as products that help protect people or have reduced toxicological risk. “Healthier” can mean improved nutrition, as well as disease prevention and control – for people as well as livestock. And “more sustainable” can cover a wide range of benefits, from reduced energy and water use, to lower pollution and waste, to more efficient resource and material use. We will report these benefits – and others – as we begin to roll the goal out within the company. We believe these terms are specific enough to allow meaningful measurement, while being broad enough to encompass a wide array of benefits flowing from sustainable policies and actions.