Dow Chemical Company, which was founded in 1894, is now the second-largest chemical company in the world. From the outset, the company has been committed to high-technology research and commercial innovation in chemistry, advanced materials, and agro-sciences. But if Dow's long history of innovation is impressive, the greatest change in the past few years has been the company's use of innovation to reinforce its commitment to sustainability. In 1996, the company produced its first set of 10-year sustainability-related goals. In an effort to meet such goals, the company invested a total of $1 billion in environmentally beneficial products such as new seeds and traits in Dow's AgroSciences business, solar shingles, and advanced battery technologies. Along with the social benefit of higher crop yields and reduced carbon emissions, the company's return on this investment has been estimated at $5 billion.
The company was even more ambitious when setting its next set of 10-year goals in 2006. In this statement, Dow's leadership aimed to create a culture that saw sustainability as a business opportunity from the perspective of a “triple bottom line”—a performance evaluation scheme focused on “people, planet, and profit” that construes success in terms of social benefits, environmental stewardship, and economic prosperity. Dow is now starting the process of developing its third set of 10-year goals, with the aim of producing a plan that will ensure the viability of the company 50 years from now. With this end in mind, Dow's leaders understand their obligation to continue investing in the health and well-being of their employees, their communities, and the environment while still creating value for their shareholders.