Breakthrough: The Michigan Source Reduction Initiative
Written by Neil Hawkins and co-authored by Linda Greer, John Ehrmann, and David Buzzelli
Relationships between environmental groups and businesses were not ‘normal’ when I came to Midland, Michigan in 1988 to start my career at The Dow Chemical Company. At best, there were periods of détente, interrupted by conflict, much of which took place in the courtroom or with the media. Had someone suggested that we could find a way to collaborate with environmentalists for mutual benefit, they would have been laughed from the conference room. ‘Tolerate’ was the best we could imagine then.
"Had someone suggested that we could find a way to collaborate with environmentalists for mutual benefit, they would have been laughed from the conference room."
That changed with the Michigan Source Reduction Initiative (MSRI) that launched Dow into a collaborative approach and opened eyes and minds to both the need and power of business to help the world achieve sustainable development. Designed and implemented by Dow’s Michigan Operations, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), local environmental groups including Lone Tree Council, and the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor and facilitated by the Meridian Institute, the MRSI was the first cross-sector collaborative effort of its kind for the company. The success—and the learning—from this effort not only ensured the project lived up to its name by significantly reducing pollutants at the source, but also by setting an example and standard for future collaborations, such as the US Climate Action Partnership formed in 2006, which would have otherwise been unimaginable.
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