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Dow Chemical Company: Improving Environmental Health

The Dow Chemical Company has 40 global manufacturing sites. The third largest is in Midland, Michigan, with 550 buildings and 40 chemical production plants on a 1,900-acre facility. Air emissions were such that, in the late 1990s, the attitude and belief inside the company were that no further gains could be made in emission control at the facility. However, Dow set two important goals: (1) to accrue by April 30, 1999, capital that could be used to cut waste and emissions by 35 percent and (2) to begin to foster institutional changes within Dow to shift the corporation's thinking from compliance to pollution prevention and to further integrate health and environmental concerns into core business practices.

Working with the community, activists, and pollution control consultants, Dow engineers identified pollution prevention opportunities. The result of this activity reduced waste and emissions by 12 million pounds per year, a 37 percent reduction. Yet, the common belief in this facility had been that there were no cost-effective pollution prevention projects left to pursue. Ultimately, 17 projects were identified with a combined return on investment of 180 percent, or a savings of $5.4 million per year.

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