"In Latin America we have been doing a lot of work on education about plastics, their proper use, design, handling and recycling."
Can you provide an overview of Dow Chemical's production capabilities in Mexico?
In Mexico Dow has production in Querétaro, Tlaxcala and Toluca. In Tlaxcala we have a polyurethane plant that is important for products that are used in car interiors. The plant in Querétaro mainly produces additives for formulations in the coatings industry. The Toluca plant produces adhesives for flexible packaging, which have been in very high demand in the last two years, particularly for the food.
What are your views on the current business climate for chemical companies in Mexico, including how the proposed energy reform could affect producers and impact investment?
I think we are at a very critical moment in Mexico because we are seeing that some laws are changing drastically without giving continuity to established legislation, such as energy. Dow is working with different associations to assess how this could impact costs and investments. Mexico has many advantages from an investment standpoint, such as the country’s geographical position and talent base. However, the country must work to remain competitive from a cost perspective.
The proposal to give more of the electricity supply to the CFE would not only require an investment of billions of dollars, it would represent a shift to expensive energies with a negative environmental impact. Finally, there is the statement from the US with a list of items from the T-MEC (USMCA agreement) that have not been implemented. This is an issue on which it is up to all of us to be vocal and active as it is one of the most critical points for Mexico's agenda in the coming years.
Where is Dow currently focusing its R&D from a sustainability standpoint?
Dow has always been a pioneer in chemistry and sustainability is a big part of the company’s evolution. Changing some of the technologies we have is very important; heavy industry cannot continue to compromise the planet and its resources. With this in mind, in October 2021 Dow announced plans to build the world's first net-zero carbon emissions ethylene and derivatives complex in Alberta, Canada.
In Latin America we have been doing a lot of work on education about plastics, their proper use, design, handling and recycling. In addition to new infrastructure that is needed to facilitate recycling, we require the hands and knowledge of the citizen. This is a global effort but it requires regional focus. For example, we have been working with Fundación Teletón through their rehabilitation centers and our sites to recover plastics that are then recycled, and many of these recycled products can be used in materials for their therapies.
You spoke at ANIQ's Foro Nacional in 2021 about the New Normal in the Chemical Industry – People as the Epicenter of Change. Can you elaborate on Dow's approach to attract and retain talent?
The chemical industry has suffered from low talent attraction for many years. The sector is competing for STEM students who, instead of choosing chemistry-oriented careers, go to the tech industry. In 2022 there has been a lot of talk about The Great Resignation worldwide. Combined with the Omicron variant, it presents a serious challenge to employers. A lot of people are losing their purpose because they don´t feel to have a work/life balance. Today more than ever we need that balance and mental care in the face of what we have been experiencing throughout the pandemic.
I am proud that Dow has always worked on policies that understand the need for flexibility, even before the pandemic. Flexibility includes personal or family care, or even other interests. For instance, Dow has announced equality in paternity and maternity leave, including for adoption and LGBT+ couples. Another initiative Dow Mexico has implemented is for employees to take time off work to volunteer in activities they like.
Another strategy is to re-think stereotypes, such as the need for an engineer to speak English or have a PhD. In some cases we will find the talent, but in others we have to develop it and invest in it. Finally, Dow is integrating women in production areas where they were not before. We believe that increasing diversity and inclusion in the workforce is how the Mexican chemical industry can move forward and improve.