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Opinion: In business, consider the long term

Jim Fitterling

At Dow, we believe business can be a catalyst for positive change. From engaging employees and deploying their talents, to driving innovations that improve lives and the environment, to creating sustainable economic growth, Michigan businesses like ours have a vital role to play.

By collaborating with our customers, governments, communities, and other stakeholders, we can create a more sustainable society and advance a circular economy. Our work with recycled plastics is a good example.

At Dow, we believe business can be a catalyst for positive change, Fitterling writes.

Dow is working to find new and innovative end uses for recycled plastics, including uses as wide-ranging as in improved asphalt roads, innovative building materials, and recycling back to feedstocks to make plastics again. This not only provides longer-lasting infrastructure but also provides a value-added end use for plastics. In fact, we already built nearly 60 miles of polymer-modified asphalt roads with post-consumer recycled plastic with our partners around the world, and we are planning to build and test more, including at our Midland headquarters.

In a circular economy, resources are used more effectively so that they are around for future generations. For plastics, this means demonstrating that the recovery and recycling of plastic generates economic opportunity, which would make plastic too valuable to be lost as waste.

Dow, with our customers and partners, is working on this by focusing on all stages of the plastic life cycle. We are working, for example, to create packaging that is designed to be fully recyclable and easy to recycle, looking at efficient waste management and collection infrastructure and business models, improving recycling technologies, and creating valuable end-use applications for recovered materials. This approach not only helps the environment, it can also create business value for Dow and our customers.

This work requires a talented workforce. That’s why we’re also working alongside so many others in Michigan to increase opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for all local students.

We are creating fun events – like a first-of-its-kind drone and robotics festival – while also investing in new higher education equipment at the Delta College Campus and the future University of Michigan Innovation Institute in downtown Midland. We aim to empower teachers, motivate student achievement, develop careers, and engage with communities to turn STEM education into a driver for innovation, manufacturing, and long-term economic prosperity.

We are also focused on creating an inclusive culture inside our company and in our communities – one that celebrates diversity, protects rights, and provides equal opportunities for all. We partner with major organizations to bring new role models and different perspectives through unique events – such as the Great Lakes Bay Invitational this summer – the first official team event on the LPGA tour.

It would not be possible to make progress in all of these areas without strong support and partnership with the state’s major business associations of which we are a member, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Business Leaders for Michigan, and of course the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Dow was founded in Michigan 122 years ago. But with our headquarters and a substantial manufacturing presence in Michigan, we are as much a part of this state’s future as its history.

Every day, our commitment to build the most innovative, customer centric, inclusive and sustainable materials science company in the world creates tangible benefits for our communities and state. As entrepreneurs, we understand the value we get – and the value we create for the planet and society – from working with our local business, community, government and civil society partners.

And we understand the importance of considering the long term in doing so.

Jim Fitterling is chief executive officer of Dow.