Originally published at corporate.dow.com by Kristen Bovid, global citizenship program officer, and executive director of the Dow Company Foundation. Dow ranked No. 22 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.
Dow encourages its businesses to engage in the world around them through the Business Impact Fund. The Business Impact Fund is a competitive grant program containing more than $1MM of annual funding to support social impact projects in partnership with nonprofit or non-governmental organizations that spotlight business solutions.
By understanding how solving a social problem can drive business results, companies have clear incentives to invest resources to innovate more deeply and scale socially-oriented business opportunities and markets.
I first learned of the concept of shared value from Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, in 2011. At the time, Dow continued along its path to major breakthroughs and was deeply focused on solving global challenges. In line with this focus, we were looking to transition our Global Citizenship efforts from traditional philanthropy to the collaboration of social impact partnerships, programs and projects that demonstrate Dow values and ambition. The Impact Fund was an intentional departure from the status quo.
We started the fund in 2016, focused only on water and plastic waste. We worked hard to prove the value of this model to both the social sector and the private sector. We have since grown the Fund’s visibility across Dow businesses and throughout the industry. To date, the Impact Fund has successfully awarded $5.77MM for 35 projects in countries around the globe.
It is truly a great privilege to see the collaboration between Dow’s Global Citizenship efforts and our businesses – and to see the unique, exciting concepts that our colleagues craft year after year. These projects are a clear testament to the passion and expertise of Team Dow that leverage their networks and their skills to make a difference.
In 2020 Dow invested $1.4MM in Dow Polyurethanes, Dow Consumer Solutions and Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics social impact projects. Congratulations to my colleagues who have championed grant funding awarded to partner organizations bringing their projects to life. Take a look at the impact these programs will achieve:
Circularity: Community Transformation to Recycling along Mithi River
Location: Mumbai, India
The goal of this project is to partner with Adv. Afroz Shah and the Date with Ocean Foundation to demonstrate the value of second-life materials by converting waste plastic collected from slums along the Mithi River into paver blocks. This work is expected to collect a minimum of 300 MT of flexible plastics waste over the course of a year. The project will engage 40,000 residents and more than 100 commercial establishments to generate employment opportunities and build awareness in communities for source segregation and litter avoidance.
Zero Plastic Waste Community
Location: Western Ghana
The aim of this project is to test a zero plastic waste concept by supporting the first phase of a Zero Plastic Waste Community (ZPWC) model for a community in Western Ghana. Dow has been working globally on projects to enable one million tons of plastic to be collected, reused and recycled through our direct actions and partnerships. We are aware of the challenges in developing countries where many communities lack adequate general solid waste management infrastructure. This ZPWC methodology, if successful, will become a replicable methodology for closing this gap globally not just for plastics but all waste materials.
Changing the Game by Enabling a PU Circular Economy
Location: Hortolândia, Brazil
In Brazil, there are no current initiatives with significant scale targeting end-of-life solutions for items that are considered main sources of polyurethane (PU) foams, such as mattresses and refrigerators. Infrastructure and education/awareness on waste delivery points for these items are lacking to the general population. In partnership with Instituto Akatu, the project will invest in the education of the local community to increase awareness about the importance of waste delivery points, to help change recycling and waste behaviors. Project funds will support waste delivery point infrastructure to enable collection of large items (PU sources) in order to increase volume of waste correctly disposed and enable alternatives to recycle polyurethanes, avoiding waste going into landfills.
Location: Andean Region – Colombia
This project was inspired by the idea of transforming, connecting and supporting the huge impact made when something considered as waste is turned into something valuable. The aim is to get behind the local community and organizations to strengthen waste collector organizations, who are already becoming Dow’s strategic allies to tackle poor waste management in the remote areas in Colombia, connect them with the formal recycling industry, creating demand and closing the loop of multi-material waste streams through innovation, education and action.
Going from Plastic Waste to Infrastructure
Location: United States, Boise, Idaho
The goal of this project is to demonstrate the recycling of hard-to-recycle plastics into durable, everyday products. It involves piloting a patented waste-to-infrastructure system developed by ByFusion, which uses steam and compression to convert plastics into revolutionary building components. The pilot will be conducted in collaboration with the Hefty® EnergyBag® program.
National Collaboration to Establish Plastic Circular Economy Model in Vietnam
Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
The purpose of this project is to promote circular economy in waste management, with a focus on plastic waste in Vietnam. Through this public-private partnership, Dow will partner with the Vietnam government to tackle plastic waste in the environment by supporting a pilot community-based model in Hanoi. This pilot aims to help increase effective recycling through household waste separation and trainings to maximize the productivity and effectiveness of informal waste collectors.
Utilizing Plastic Waste in Infrastructure Uses in South Africa
Location: Kwazulu-Natal, Gauteng and Western Cape South Africa
This project aims to validate, replicate and scale-up three end-uses to divert currently unrecycled plastics in South Africa to create social, environmental and business value. This work supports a study on plastic road technology, creation of a “Green Paver” and use of plastic waste in concrete products for building infrastructure applications.
Social Development and Income Generation through Amazon Forest Preservation
Location: Breu Branco, Pará – Brazil
The purpose of this project is to empower Amazon local communities to assess its biodiversity bringing economic growth to an underdeveloped region through forest conservation. This project will help position Dow as a strategic partner in the sustainability area and allows for increased customer collaborations while generating fair trade and income generation opportunities to a local community in Pará, Brazil.
This work helps position Dow as a leader in sustainability, increases brand awareness, strengthens partnerships with regulating agencies, develops customer intimacy, and creates new or expanded markets. It also activates our employees to positively impact the social and environmental needs of their communities. And we can measure our efforts, for instance, we now know 1,323 jobs will be created or saved as a result of these projects, as well as 4.9 million tons of materials recycled.
My vision for the fund is to continue to diversify both the businesses involved and the business impact created, while continuing to grow the portfolio. I’m honored to have the opportunity to make a difference across the world by engaging in the Dow Business Impact Fund.