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Sissel Waage and Mike Uhl explore how organizations can harness natural systems and processes to solve operational challenges.

“Imagine that you are an executive in a multinational company. You focus on growing the business and delivering quarterly returns that delight Wall Street investors.  An appointment has appeared on your calendar with a senior vice president to discuss a new investment in something that sounds environmental — “natural treatment systems” — but you are told it is operational.

The meeting starts with three clear bottles being placed on a table. One has thick, greenish water, representing algae contamination. Another contains a green-tinted liquid, but can be seen through. The final one looks like drinking water.

All three bottles are taken from tests of wastewater treatment options being explored for one of the company’s chemical production facilities. The presenter pulls up a summary slideshow, saying that the technology that yields the clearest water also has the lowest infrastructural investment outlay — cheaper by $39 million to build. Detailed spreadsheets are presented, but the decision is as clear as the last bottle of water.

This case is from 1995, the early days of Dow’s exploring investment in “engineered natural treatment systems for industrial wastewater.” In the end, Dow essentially created a wetland to undertake the water filtration processes that natural wetlands do very well.

The final results of this approach look strikingly similar to what nature achieves on its own, because the custom-built wetland enables natural ecological systems to treat the water (as shown in this video). Dow elected in 1995 to build this constructed wetland at its Seadrift, Texas, facility — delivering benefits exceeding $282 million to date….”

Read on at: Greenbiz