Finalist: The Dow Chemical Company and Habitat for Humanity International
Dow’s commitment to Habitat for Humanity spans nearly 30 years and includes financial, product and volunteer contributions through a global partnership.
The aggregate Dow contribution to Habitat is approximately $12.5 million in funding and more than $25 million in gift-in-kind product donations.
As important, thousands of Dow volunteers have helped families and communities around the world realize the dream of owning a decent home. Dow also works with Habitat by providing personnel who serve as board members and subject matter experts in energy efficiency and conservation in the construction of homes.
Dow was one of Habitat’s first corporate partners in 1983. For 28 years, Dow has supported the construction of more than 25,000 homes – helping families live in decent, affordable housing in more than 20 countries worldwide including Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as well as North America.
Dow and Habitat share the same goal, which is to develop communities by building and renovating houses. Dow’s partnership with Habitat focuses on finding creative ways to leverage its products, innovation and people to have a positive impact on poverty housing.
By every measure, the Dow/Habitat collaboration is a resounding success. The longevity of the relationship in itself is evidence of impact. In addition, over the years, Dow’s commitment to Habitat has evolved to become highly strategic.
This evolution began in the late 1980’s when the partnership moved from an individual, business-based collaboration to a corporate priority. Soon, the support went global, reaching builds all over the world.
In individual communities, Dow has taken novel approaches to meeting the need. This includes everything from actively managing an entire build to rallying hundreds of volunteers to participate in projects. Research demonstrates the impact:
- Children under the age of five living in decent housing in Malawi showed a 44 percent reduction in malaria, respiratory or gastrointestinal diseases compared to children living in traditional houses.
- Housing construction, especially in low-income countries, creates job opportunities for migrants and stimulates the creation of small business.
- Investing in housing expands the local tax base.
- Communities with transparent systems to meet and sustain basic housing needs are more likely to build the trust and social cohesiveness on which democracy and development are founded.
When building trends moved toward building homes that do not use typical Dow building products, the company offered solutions from its other businesses. One example is a recent project where Dow’s Water Solutions business provided water purification technology to families who did not have access to safe, clean water.
When Dow recognized another trend -- the movement away from building new homes in lieu of refurbishing existing properties – another solution emerged. Dow is now in its fourth year of sponsoring significant neighborhood revitalization efforts to meet this need. A regional build this summer in Michigan includes three cities and hundreds of Dow volunteers for each project. Up to 40 homes per community will be impacted, as well as neighborhood parks and other properties.
Dow’s support can also be measured in energy savings for homeowners who have new homes that are significantly more efficient than older properties. While savings can be difficult to quantify, Dow’s own product research indicates time and again the benefit of using energy efficient products on homes.
Dow’s activism in this arena led the company to be invited to partner with Habitat in a Department of Energy grant to study the benefits of retrofitting 50 homes in five climate zones to achieve 30% to 50% improvement in energy efficiency.
The Business Case
The Chamber BCLC believes the best examples of business-nonprofit partnerships have true benefit to the company, as well as the cause or community the company serves.
The Dow/Habitat partnership focuses on Dow’s business objective to solve world problems by using leading edge technology and chemistry to build stable and secure homes for families and communities.
Dow’s commitment to build houses supports its business strategy and leverages its core competencies. In 2006, Dow set ambitious sustainability goals, including one focused solely on Dow’s responsibility to play a positive role in its communities and another focused on achieving at least three breakthroughs to world challenges, one of them being decent housing.
Science, humanity and sustainability are at the core of Dow’s business strategy. They are also at the core of Dow’s efforts to build affordable, sustainable houses in Dow hometowns worldwide. Communities where Dow has a presence are key stakeholders. By improving the quality of families’ lives using the very science that drives Dow’s business, the company is creating more sustainable communities.
What’s more, for Dow, Habitat is a showcase for the company’s energy efficient building solutions, sustainable building models, and integrated water and sanitation solutions. Multiple stakeholders including customers, NGOs, government officials and community leaders can experience first-hand the Dow “conscience” and the science that goes into Dow products.