The Dow Chemical Company has set sustainability goals for 2025. One goal is to apply a business decision process that values nature by delivering both business and natural capital value.
At a former mine site in Arkansas, where seeps expressed at the surface after contacting mine materials, our team was challenged with developing a sustainable and practical solution. The solution needed to remove environmental impacts, improve water quality and enhance the aesthetics of the project area to provide habitat and wetland features.
The business argument, “complete restoration, un-impair the creek, and exit property ownership,” is what motivated us to consider nature-based systems. To be able to exit the site we needed to have in place a low or “zero” maintenance system that would continue to stabilize water quality and provide long-term improvements and revitalize the creek. We found that a nature-based solution would achieve the restoration required and would create a natural asset that wouldn’t require long-term operations and maintenance.
The key benefits of implementing a nature-based solution were: costs savings estimated in the millions of dollars compared to other traditional treatment solutions. By avoiding the construction and operation of a new large-scale treatment system which would have required 40-year operations, the problem was solved with less of an environmental footprint (e.g. fewer GHG emissions, and less raw materials and energy needed). This also created incremental ecological benefits through more diverse habitat and reduced erosion risks. Finally, enhanced societal values were also delivered through improved aesthetics and educating the public on passive treatment system benefits.
As employee awareness increases on nature-based solutions and since adding Sustainability 2025 value to Dow, more projects have considered a nature-based alternative in feasibility analyses and project options. As such, they are given greater credibility as viable solutions and the total lifecycle cost of all of the options are evaluated. In the engineering, design or feasibility process the nature-based solution may not be selected, but it is given more credit as a viable solution than before.