Walking the Talk

For those executive directors in the 2004 DJSI chemical sector, sustainable development is a commitment, not window dressing for commercial purposes. Through their personal commitment to stewardship and sustainable development, corporate leaders can help to ensure a secure future for their company and society at large.

Dr. William Stavropoulos, CEO and Board Chair of Dow Chemical, captured the concept of executive commitment in his own words: "Sustainability is a mindset, a leadership philosophy and arguably the only way to conduct business in the twenty-first century ... And, to truly take hold, it demands leadership - commitment, passion and belief - from the very top of an organization" (Stavropoulos, 2001: para 21).

The companies in the chemical sector of the DJSI have committed to sustainabil-ity, and some have faced challenges to that commitment in the normal course of business. Executives who have made a personal, public commitment to sustainable development find themselves in a position to be held accountable for their performance by their stakeholders. One of the more public cases involved Bayer AG. One of Bayer's most promising drugs, the anticholesterol medication Lipobay®, was linked to deaths in the United States. Dr. Manfred Schneider, then CEO of Bayer, made the decision to withdraw Lipobay® from the market, recognizing that the action would "... of course have effects on our pharmaceuticals strategy and on the future development of the group. The economic consequences are very serious, but absolute priority for us is the safety and health of our patients" ("Agence France-Presse", 2001: para 5).

The leading sustainability companies in the chemical industry have made a public commitment to sustainable development despite the possibility that this commitment may result in extra scrutiny for those involved and present risks in terms of subsequent commercial and personal outcomes (Hemingway and Maclagan, 2004). This public commitment is a necessary component and antecedent to success in sustainable development.

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