Molecular Solutions, Global Challenges

Eastman’s Innovations for a Sustainable Future
Nov 8, 2017 3:30 PM ET

Molecular Solutions, Global Challenges

By David A. Golden

The world faces enormous challenges driven by the interconnectivity of energy, water, and food resources. We have to take these interrelationships into consideration as we seek global solutions. To make matters more complex, the ocean, atmosphere, and climate are inextricably linked to energy, water, and the food chain. Considered in the context of a growing population and rising standard of living, we are left with a host of challenging questions.

"How do we feed more people with less arable crop land?”

"As coastal cities grow at a disproportionate rate, how do we protect our populations from extreme weather events?"

"How do we exponentially increase resource productivity and help ensure a sustainable future?"

The only way to solve these world problems is to relentlessly pursue innovation that leads to a sustainable future. At Eastman, sustainability means we have to create vastly more value in the world than the resources we use. We believe a large part of our value creation is derived as we find answers to the resource challenges facing the world. To drive this, we have rebooted our Sustainability Council and our three sub-councils: Sustainable Portfolio; Design, Environment and Natural Resources; and Social Innovation. We have empowered our sub-councils to (1) inspire sustainability-led innovation, (2) drive prioritization of our sustainability strategy and the mapping of Sustainable Development Goals, (3) identify sustainability-related issues and trends, and (4) find opportunities to proactively engage with our stakeholders. We believe we have the opportunity to develop new molecules, products and applications to address global macro trends and enhance the quality of life in a material way. Innovation at the molecular level isn’t easy – it takes time and involves trial and error.  But given the wicked problems bearing down on the world, we are highly motivated.

Natural Resource Efficiency
We understand that we must drive resource productivity.  We are focused on increasing our energy, and water efficiency and protecting the environment.  This has led us to expand our energy management program to become the global natural resource program, implementing best practices from our long-standing energy management successes to water conservation. We are also committed to a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and we remain on track.

We know our customers have the same imperative. We understand the potential functionality of our products along the value chain – working upstream and downstream to help our customers and the ultimate consumer achieve their sustainability vision. We collaborate with customers to ensure we understand the markets and trends driving their product decisions, which enables us to be a preferred innovation partner. Within our platform of world-class technologies, we can “tune” a molecule for a specific customer’s sustainability-driven application. We use life cycle assessments as tools and build sustainability assessments into our innovation and commercialization processes.

Emerging Middle Class
Some of our leading markets include transportation, consumables and building and construction. We compare those markets to globalization trends, and we see clear alignment to a growing and emerging middle class that has more access to higher-value products. Increasingly, these consumers want products that are sustainable.

Take an automobile as an example.  Consumers want automobiles with a smaller carbon footprint without sacrificing safety and reliability.  Eastman products help deliver such solutions in the windshield, the side laminate, the tires, the coating, and under the hood. For instance, Eastman Tetrashield™ protective resin systems help paint coatings dry faster and thicker, which lowers the number of paint layers and reduces energy usage and emissions during manufacturing. Eastman Saflex® solar-absorbing interlayers allow automakers to make the glass in the car thinner, which reduces the weight of the car and improves gas mileage.  These molecular innovations when leveraged across an economy make a significant impact.

Feeding a Growing Population
Experts predict the global population will increase by at least 2.5 billion people by 2050. The agriculture market must develop innovative and targeted solutions to help ensure the success of crops and land.

At Eastman, we are developing sustainable crop-protection solutions that are key components to achieving greater yield with minimum crop loss. Quality of the end products that farmers offer is also important, which is why we offer solutions to combat some of the problems that can impact animals’ well-being and assure feed hygiene. Experts estimate over 30% of food is never eaten. We make innovative materials that help reduce spoilage and enhance food safety. 

Health and Wellness
Another macro trend is the need to focus on population health and well-being. With advancements in health care technology comes the requirement for safe, reliable materials to manufacture devices that house these technologies. For example, today’s health care professionals are more motivated than ever to prevent hospital-acquired infections, leading them to use more effective disinfectants. Exposure to these disinfectants and cleaners often results in defects of the medical device. We provide solutions for medical device housings that have excellent chemical and microbial resistance, while maintaining durability to allow for longer product life cycle. In turn, this helps medical care providers safeguard patients while controlling costs. 

Social Innovation and collaboration
Innovation is particularly powerful when it is done in collaboration with word-class, non-profit partners. For instance, we understand the ocean is fundamental to our climate, atmospheric, weather, food, energy and water systems. To gain a better understanding of these systems, we have sought insight from leading scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). As an outgrowth of that relationship, we have collaborated with WHOI on several projects, including the X-SPAR buoy. The X-Spar is a low-cost buoy that measures wind, stress, sensible and latent heat exchange, precipitation and short- and long-wave radiation in inhospitable regions of the ocean—regions where there is huge need for additional ocean data. The data X-Spar collects will help scientists better understand the ocean and how it drives weather and climate.

Additionally, in early 2017 the Eastman Foundation helped WHOI launch a center for air/sea interaction and marine meteorology. Recent headlines sadly illustrate the devastating effects of severe weather events and the need for better understanding of the ocean’s effect on weather and climate. The center will bring together world-class scientists, new technology and cutting-edge observational and modeling techniques to better understand the connection between the ocean and the atmosphere. As the world’s largest non-profit oceanographic institution, WHOI is the perfect institution to drive this important research.

I have mentioned only a few of our many molecular-level sustainability projects at Eastman.  Companies can play an enormously important role in solving world problems. I see this trend increasing dramatically and presenting unique opportunities to make a real difference in the world. In light of this trend, I’m optimistic that innovation and collaboration, both public and private, will help society rise to meet the very real challenges facing the world and shape a sustainable future.

Written by: David A. Golden, Eastman Senior Vice President, Chief Legal & Sustainability Officer, and Corporate Secretary

Article orginally posted in Ethisphere Magazine


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