DuPont’s History of Leadership, Safety, and Environmental Responsibility

DuPont is one of the leading organizations known for producing chemicals and other science-based products. It was founded as a gunpowder mill in 1802. Today, one of their core values is to help make the planet more sustainable. Their other core values include:

-High ethical compliance. That is, they make it a point to respect the laws of the land, not do anything without anyone’s consent or come off as “mad scientists.” They do everything in the most respectful manner possible and admit any errors once they become known.

-Respect for people. This doesn’t mean just for the consumers who use their products but also to all employees and anyone they partner with. In other words, they make the best effort to reach a mutual understanding of where everyone is coming from and to not step on anyone’s toes.

-Being as cautious as they can with safety and health. This includes consumers, employees and business partners. This includes addressing any dangers once they’re discovered.


Safety is the core value that makes DuPont stand out the most. Their founder, E.I. DuPont, cared very deeply about responsibility and safety. Most other entrepreneurs of the time were ignorant about safety or ignored safety in favor of higher profits. At one of his first riverfront gunpowder factories E.I. DuPont had three of the four walls built out of strong granite and the fourth built out of light wood. That way, in case anything went wrong, and explosions occurred within the factory, the river would catch most of the blast.

DuPont had many of the zero-tolerance policy safety regulations very similar to what businesses have now. For example, he did not allow matches, pocketknives or tobacco on the property. Anyone who showed up drunk was fired immediately. DuPont was serious about safety requirements and employee compliance to insure the safest working environment possible.

In the case of accidental explosions in the factory, DuPont provided free housing to the permanently injured survivors and lifetime pensions for the widows of deceased workers. From there, the DuPont brand continued to evolve with a high reputation for safety. By the mid-1800’s, when DuPont had evolved into the chemical-processing plant that it is today, it had hired an on-site doctor ready to care for any employee injuries. Today, DuPont has evolved into a multinational company which provides solutions to every field from healthcare to transportation.

Dow / DuPont merger

Dow merged with DuPont in 2017 so that they could work together through the challenges of manufacturing and selling herbicides and pesticides. By merging their formidable reputations and environmental records they eliminated the distraction of price competition/deflation and grew their combined revenues. Their merged expertise also gave the combined company a larger foothold in agriculture, material sciences and specialty products. Eventually the successful agricultural division was renamed Corteva Agriscience. Dow’s brand name remains with the material science spinoff and DuPont’s brand name remains with the specialty products division.

The Other Multi-National Specialty Chemical Company Players

Many of Bayer’s products were involved in the merger between Dow and DuPont. In 2019, Bayer, Monsanto, and BASF reached a mutual agreement to produce and sell crop products and pesticides to retailers and farmers. In 2016, Bayer merged with Monsanto for $66 billion. BASF is the only multinational specialty chemical company that hasn’t been part of a merger. Each of these massive firms helps to maintain either seed or chemical sustainability. DuPont’s primary business is in seeds while Dow’s is in chemicals.

Business in the 21st Century

After 200 years of bringing the world transformative ideas and products, the new DuPont has a renewed sense of urgency for innovation in a world where sustainability is key. Among their nine key sustainability priorities grouped into 3 themes (Innovate, Protect, Empower) are several practices which will make an enormous difference at a company of their size and scale:

Enabling a Circular Economy

A commitment to move away from disposable models to innovations which enable a low carbon and circular economy. They seek to design out waste, keep materials in use, and support more regenerative and restorative systems.

Innovating Safer by Design

Chemistry touches all aspects of our lives. The science that underpins what is safe and what is not safe continually evolves. DuPont asks their technology developers to challenge themselves and strive for materials that are safer by design, and to create a culture that embraces green chemistry principles.

Protect Now

Because everyone must acknowledge and address their impact on climate change and the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to it, DuPont’s goal is to reduce their emissions at a pace aligned with climate science. They will buy their electricity from more renewable sources, ramp up their work on energy efficiency projects, and advocate for regulatory environments that foster economic growth.

DuPont is also a leader in Water Stewardship. With demand for water in the municipal and industrial sectors expected to increase 50-70% in the next 30 years, water stewardship is increasingly important as scarcity and quality concerns grow. DuPont depends on a stable water supply to make quality products that serve society. They understand that water stewardship is a global issue, but water withdrawal, consumption, and quality are managed locally. DuPont is committed to changing how they manage water so that they can satisfy the needs of today while securing water for the future.

A final pillar of their beliefs is to continue to deliver World-Class Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Performance. One of DuPont’s core values has always been a commitment to environmental, health, and safety excellence for all stakeholders. Their 2 key initiatives “Commitment to Zero” and Responsible Care® remain globally recognized systems that are key to the company’s success and terrific examples for other multinational companies to follow.


DuPont as a company looks very different today from the gunpowder manufacturer created at the start of the 19th century. Their early years were filled with the challenges of many companies born during the industrial revolution. Their current business model looks out on a world much more sophisticated and global in nature, but their corporate values and high sense of responsibility have never wavered. Safety, environmental respect, and sustainability remain company pillars for their nearly 100,000 worldwide employees.

DuPont. (n.d.). Sustainability.


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