OVERVIEW: Dow Chemical is a corporate goliath that has recently stepped up its corporate responsibility activity, including philanthropic giving. The corporation’s giving is tied almost indistinguishably to its corporate citizenship program. Two of its main priorities are higher education and K-12 STEM education. Dow also offers community awards and has a matching gifts program.
IP TAKE: Dow’s philanthropy is closely integrated with its efforts to boost its reputation as a corporate citizen in ways that bolster its business interests. Dow has a handful of signature, high-profile programs it supports, but also directs several million in grants to a long list of colleges and K-12 programs.
PROFILE: In 2004, incoming CEO Andrew Liveris named a new director of corporate citizenship and made it a priority for Dow to boost philanthropic and sustainability efforts. The corporation poured some $100 million into its foundation in 2006, and is now giving in the neighborhood of $25 million annually.
It has also since tried to move to an approach to giving that is better integrated with the corporation’s business strategy. That means there’s less of a distinct foundation with separate public priorities, and more of an emphasis on corporate partnerships and initiatives for sustainability, community improvement, and education.
Many partnerships are focused on what Dow calls “building the workforce of tomorrow” and tie directly to STEM education through job training, teacher training, and science competitions.
Related to workforce training, Dow partnered with Siemens and Alcoa to study “best apprenticeship practices in Germany and other countries in Europe in support of a new U.S. model,” the result of which will be a “playbook” designed to facilitate effective apprenticeships, including for U.S. military veterans. Dow has also worked with Delta College the Midland, MI to develop and implement a training program for displaced workers. The company also hosts a symposium “primarily intended to introduce African American, Hispanic, Native American U.S. doctoral and postdoctoral scientists to...careers in industrial research,” including at Dow.
For teacher support, Dow partnered with Change the Equation, which looks to improve STEM education overall, including through teacher training. It also recently launched the STEMtheGAP initiative. A major STEMtheGAP activity is the Dow Teacher Challenge, which invites educators to discuss their greatest classroom obstacles and offer their ideas for overcoming them. Teachers with the best submissions are awarded $1,000 each to use in their classrooms. Dow is also a supporter of 100kin10, an initiative to train 100,000 new STEM teachers by 2025.
Among the many competitions Dow supports is the Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award, which goes to graduate students at pre-selected universities around the world working on sustainability research projects, especially those with an interdisciplinary component. Awards are $10,000 for the winner and $2,500 for the runner up. Dow also supports the Chemical Education Foundation’s You Be the Chemist Challenge as well as the FIRST Robotics competition. There is also the high school science competition the International Chemistry Olympiad. In addition to science competitions and awards, Dow also gives several million to universities in support of basic science education needs.
Lastly for higher ed, not to be overlooked is Dow’s Matching Gifts program, which will match donations from Dow employees dollar for dollar, up to $10,000 per individual and $100,000 per institution each year. Note that only colleges and universities and their affiliates are eligible for these awards.
Dow's other major priority in STEM education is for K-12 teachers and students. Dow also gives to K-12 education internationally, such as through a “Dow Chemistry Class” program in which students in Thailand recently were able to conduct small-scale in-class experiments.
But Dow doesn’t just give mega grants to big educational institutions. In recent years, the funder has made hundreds of modest grants annually (including for STEM education), with many as small as several hundred dollars in a recent year.
Dow also has a community grant program called DowGives, which appears to serve specific communities throughout the country, including in Michigan, Tennessee, and the Delaware Valley, and for which applications are administered locally.
- Neil C. Hawkins, Corporate Vice President, Environmental Health & Safety, and Chief Sustainability Officer