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Eastman Commits to Cutting Its Impact by 20 Percent Across the Board to Improve Sustainability

Specialty chemical and fiber giant Eastman Chemical Co.’s new sustainability report, “Innovating with Purpose,” outlines where the company is on track to meet its environmental goals and where it could use some improvement.

“We have outlined a sustainability strategy to address…global issues through steering a sustainable portfolio, driving resource productivity and rendering focused good acts by employees and the company for the simple sake of doing good,” said David A. Golden, senior vice president, chief legal and sustainability officer, and corporate secretary.

Eastman serves customers in more than 100 countries and had 2016 revenues of about $9 billion. The company is headquartered in Kingsport, Tennessee, and employs some 14,000 people around the world. Its fiber unit manufactures and markets acetate fiber, Avra polyester for the activewear markets and Naia cellulosic fiber.

[Read more on the Naia fiber: Eastman Knocks on Wood With New Naia Fiber]

In the report, the company said it remains focused on the “big picture” targets of its strategy—areas where it believes it can create the biggest change.

“As part of our Responsible Care commitment to continual improvement, we review our goals regularly and establish targets that challenge us to move the horizon forward,” the report notes. “This year, we continue to report on the aspirational goals and targets we’ve established as we look toward the 2020 horizon.”

Eastman said it is “on track” with delivering new business solutions from its renewable technology platforms. The company is increasing the focus on leveraging its renewable technology platforms to deliver sustainable growth. Roughly 20 percent of new products commercialized in 2016 and first half of 2017 are part of our renewable technology platforms, with several additional products in the development pipeline that also meet the criteria.

Also on track is a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production 20 percent by 2020 against the 2008 baseline, with 2016 greenhouse gas intensity decreasing 14 percent compared to the baseline.

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In 2016, the company established a goal to develop best practices for water conservation and reuse and assess its manufacturing sites against these best practices. Eight North America sites completed assessments in 2016, with a target to complete all U.S.-based sites by the end of 2017. With the restructuring of its energy management program to encompass natural resources more holistically and the relaunch of the Sustainability Council, Eastman said it will continue to prioritize water management, conservation and reuse to determine long-term goals and strategy.

When it comes to areas that still need work, the company said it “needs improvement” in ensuring all innovation projects are assessed against sustainability macro trends. As such, Eastman is implementing a Portfolio Sustainability Assessment that will standardize and deepen its assessment process of all innovation projects. In 2016, it piloted the assessment tool with targeted projects to allow the company to learn, review and adjust to make improvements to this approach.

Also needing improvement is energy efficiency of operations, with a goal of 20 percent by 2020 against a 2008 baseline. Through 2016, energy intensity improved 10.1% compared to the 2008 baseline, and year-over-year improvement was 2.6% compared to 2015. Eastman said it has emphasized improved correlation between production and energy use to offset headwinds due to its strategic shift to specialty materials, which tend to be more energy intensive to manufacture.

In addition, Eastman aims to improve its strong commitment to a zero-incident culture, noting that “while we have specific annual targets for each safety metric reported, the ultimate goal is zero incidents from both a safety and environmental perspective.”

Other goals include reducing nitrogen oxide use by 20 percent and sulfur dioxide by 40 percent by 2020 against the 2010 baseline, and reducing volatile organic compounds by 15 percent by 2020 against the 2010 baseline. Eastman also wants to reduce the total number of reportable releases by 25 percent by 2020 against the 2010 baseline, with 2016 reportable releases already decreasing 23 percent compared to the baseline. It also aims to reduce toxic release inventory emissions to the air by 25 percent by 2020 against the 2010 baseline, and to reduce hazardous waste by 15 percent by 2020 against the 2010 baseline.

“The solutions to the world’s most significant issues will come on the molecular level, and because we have the capabilities and unique technologies to deliver those solutions, we have an obligation to commercially provide them,” Eastman SVP and chief technology officer, Steve Crawford,said, senior vice president and chief technology officer, said,  “We have an obligation to be more than a chemical company—we have an obligation to be an innovation company and a solution provider. Being at Eastman isn’t just about the bottom line, it’s about making a material difference and enhancing the quality of life.”