Published 2 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Sergio Cerrato/Pixabay
Here, Cathy Combs, Eastman’s Director of Sustainability, details the materials giant’s ongoing journey to embedding sustainability into its core strategy — to enhance quality of life in a material way.
Eastman is a company of
problem-solvers. Our people are tackling problems that face the world in order
to enhance quality of life in a material way. That’s why we exist — and we’ve
arrived at a point where sustainability is how we fulfill our purpose.
Over the past decade, sustainability at Eastman has evolved from compliance to
an integral element of our corporate growth strategy. Propelled by what I call
“listening from the outside in,” this evolution has helped transform how our
company meets needs and tackles global crises.
Sustainability at Eastman originally meant environmental compliance. Over time,
we added society and economics to the environment, creating our triple bottom
line. As I joined the team, sustainability was emerging as a driving factor in
particular markets; and our team saw the growing opportunity for our businesses
to sell sustainable
As we researched and planned for market shifts, our collective understanding of
As sustainability at Eastman continues to evolve, it’s not only about marketing
sustainable products but about managing sustainable businesses. Sustainability
is a mindset embedded in how we operate across all business units and in each of
our roles. It’s driven by innovation and focused on people.
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This evolution of our approach is a microcosm of shifts happening outside our
walls. Consumers around the world have come to not only desire sustainability,
but to expect it. The connection between people and the environment has become
clearer and more personal, and even more so as a result of the pandemic.
In the corporate world, we can easily get turned around and only think from the
inside out. But a sea change begins with the people outside our walls — as
consumers see what’s going on, react to it and adjust their expectations of
The market is based on what they want — safe products and healthy communities,
transparency and purpose-driven action.
We created a cross-functional group across Eastman several years ago to do the
research — to map the landscape of consumers, our value chain, and similar
companies. Through an iterative process of research, planning and engaging our
senior leadership in dialogue, we laid a foundation that has enabled us to think
strategically about our impact. We asked ourselves, how are we going to embody
our purpose to enhance quality of life in a material way when there are so many
As we face the pandemic, societal unrest and a struggling global economy, we are
also facing three long-term and potentially devastating challenges: climate change, a global plastic waste crisis and population growth. We believe addressing those challenges is the key to enhancing quality of life for all people.
To do so, we’ve developed a strategic platform and goals that will guide us in
prioritizing three critical impact initiatives: mitigating climate change,
mainstreaming circularity and caring for society. We think of this as
innovating for what we call “a better circle.” This platform gives us a
framework to deliver on the promise of our purpose statement, now and for
generations to come.
Our vision for a better circle is detailed in our 2020 Sustainability
Report. Here are the
We are prepared to do our part to support the United States’ renewed commitment
to the Paris
In alignment with that, we have committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
To achieve this, we have set an intermediate target of reducing our absolute
greenhouse gas Scope 1 and 2 emissions by one-third by 2030. We will also
continue to provide products that enable energy savings and greenhouse gas
reduction down our value chains and at the consumer level.
For a circular economy to become mainstream, the world needs technologies,
policies and infrastructure to support it. We’ve committed to recycle more than
500 million pounds of plastic waste annually by 2030 via our molecular recycling
technologies, with a milestone of 250 million pounds annually by 2025. We’re
also working to catalyze recycling system improvements in two primary ways: 1)
expanding our capabilities to recycle more complex products, and 2)
participating in initiatives and collaborations that will drive increased
an exciting advancement toward both our climate and circularity goals: Eastman
is building a state-of-the-art facility that will use over 100,000 metric tons
of waste plastic each year as raw material. As a result, the equivalent amount
of fossil feedstock will stay in the ground; and we will reduce our greenhouse
gas emissions by 20-30 percent, compared to using those fossil feedstocks.
Eastman will invest about $250 million over the next two years to get it up and
running — and recycling.
By creating better products, supporting our communities, and building a more
inclusive culture inside and outside our
we’re working to enhance the quality of life for all 10 billion people who will
soon call our planet home. We will continue driving new product innovations that
meet our world’s pressing needs in safe and transparent ways. We’ve also
committed to achieving gender parity in alignment with our commitment to
Paradigm for Parity®, as well as leading our
industry in racial
Listening from the outside in has never been more important than in the
aftermath of the pandemic and the revolution for racial equity. With the
convergence of environmental, social and economic crises in 2020, organizations
along our entire value chain must now do the homework, start an ongoing dialogue
with each other, and set individual and collective goals. It’s time to be bold —
and boldness starts with listening.
Published Mar 5, 2021 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
Cathy Combs holds a B.S. degree from Carson-Newman University. She joined Eastman in 1985 and has held a variety of positions of increasing responsibility across the company, including roles in Finance, Manufacturing, Business, Communications, HR, Marketing, and Sustainability. Her experience in those areas serves her well as she connects with colleagues both inside and outside Eastman to share the company’s sustainability vision and strategy and engage others to partner in achieving it. Cathy is passionate about integrating sustainability, innovation, strategy and business to address some of the world’s big issues while creating value.
Cathy and her husband reside in Kingsport and have two grown children. She volunteers in various capacities with organizations such as the American Red Cross, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and Kitchen of Hope.