The Conference Board uses cookies to improve our website, enhance your experience, and deliver relevant messages and offers about our products. Detailed information on the use of cookies on this site is provided in our cookie policy. For more information on how The Conference Board collects and uses personal data, please visit our privacy policy. By continuing to use this Site or by clicking "OK", you consent to the use of cookies. 

01 Dec. 2015 | Comments (0)

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and converge with the UN’s post-2015 development agenda. The SDGs have a broader remit than the MDGs and included the private sector in their development. As the UN recently launched the goals, we wanted to find out how companies are planning to respond. In this piece, Neil Hawkins from The Dow Chemical Company answers our questions.

Dow understands that with only one planet, with limited resources, everything people and organizations collectively do and how they do it matters. The company sees opportunity to contribute to the SDGs by minimizing its footprint; delivering solutions that help its customers and the rest of society do the same; and collaborating courageously to help lead the transition to a sustainable planet and society.

Q: How are the SDGs incorporated into your company’s corporate responsibility or sustainability strategy? What is the value proposition for your company?

A: At Dow, we believe in the UN’s vision for sustainable development and that business will play a key role in delivering the SDGs.

Through our 2025 Sustainability Goals, Dow seeks to advance the well-being of humanity by helping lead the transition to a sustainable planet and society. We will collaborate courageously—engaging in new and at times unexpected ways—to help redefine the role of business in society, which aligns with SDG 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Though Dow’s 2025 Sustainability Goals were not developed in response to the UN SDGs, they were developed during the same timeframe using a similar collaborative method that engaged key stakeholders across the public and private sectors, and they also align with the key themes of all 17 SDGs.

Q: Will you be targeting certain goals related to your company’s core competencies and/or those of your stakeholders?

A: Delivering the SDGs will require collaboration at the intersection of business, government and society. With Dow’s 2025 Sustainability Goals, we look beyond our own fence line and the positive impact of our products and solutions, to collaborate courageously to develop a blueprint for a more sustainable planet and society. We will collaborate across academia, business, government and non-governmental organizations to develop a societal blueprint that integrates public policy solutions, science, technology and innovation. We are motivated to share our sustainability journey with like-minded people and organizations so we can continue to learn and accelerate innovation, and we need to tap into everyone’s strengths to deliver the best possible path forward.

While Dow’s 2025 Goals align to all 17 UN SDGs, we see the strongest correlations in three key areas:

  • SDG 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • SDG 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • SDG 15 – Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Q: What specific plans does your company have to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs? How do those plans affect different geographies?

A: As a world-class science and technology company, we have seen great results in sustainability by setting clear and challenging goals, measuring rigorously and regularly reporting on progress. With our 2025 Goals, we have developed dozens of metrics that will give us more than 40 ways to measure our progress. For example, we have committed to value nature by generating $1 billion in net present value from projects that are good for business and good for the environment by 2025, which aligns well to SDG 15.

Achieving sustainability goals is not new for Dow. Our commitment to sustainability is integral to our corporate vision, mission and values, which remain steadfast across our global enterprise. Leveraging the power of the sciences, we have delivered breakthroughs to world challenges that have improved the lives of people around the globe. For example, for millions of people in the developing world, hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent disease, but soap is often seen as a luxury item. Dow collaborated with Unilever to develop for Lifebuoy™ soap featuring POLYOX™ Polymers, which costs 10 cents a bar and lasts an entire month, making it a more affordable solution to encourage handwashing.

It is collaborations like this that will help advance sustainability and help deliver the SDGs.

Q: How will you involve employees in your response to the SDGs?

A: One of Dow’s 2025 Goals is to Engage Employees for Impact. Dow people worldwide will directly apply their passion, skills and expertise to advance the well-being of people and the planet, seeking to positively impact 1 billion people by 2025. For example, we will engage employees as STEM Ambassadors—employees who work to engage the next generation of researchers through the promotion of science, technology, engineering and math)—and in programs like the Dow Sustainability Corps, a pro bono program that matches interested employees with non-governmental organizations, social entrepreneurs and local government agencies that need support for sustainable development projects, especially in emerging geographies and areas of growth for Dow. Areas of priority for this program include:

  • Water
  • Housing
  • Climate and Energy Change
  • Education
  • Agriculture
  • Public Health and Sanitation.


  • About the Author:Neil Hawkins

    Neil Hawkins

    Dr. Neil Hawkins drives strategy and implementation of Dow’s sustainability and EH&S programs, including the Company’s 2025 Sustainability Goals. Dr. Hawkins is a global leader in the …

    Full Bio | More from Neil Hawkins

  • About the Author:Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson is Principal of Parky Communications, a communications agency specializing in sustainability and CSR reporting and communications. He serves as the Co-Leader of The Conference Board Cor…

    Full Bio | More from Alex Parkinson


0 Comment Comment Policy

Please Sign In to post a comment.

    Subscribe to the Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy Blog and Newsletter
    Support Our Work

    Support our nonpartisan, nonprofit research and insights which help leaders address societal challenges.