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Interview with Ellen Kullman, Chair of the Board and CEO, DuPont

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Ellen Kullman and DuPont

Ellen Kullman, has been Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DuPont since 2009.

As CEO, Ellen has championed market-driven science to promote innovation across the company’s businesses. Under her leadership, decision making has moved closer to customers around the world, resulting in greater partnering, collaboration, and solutions attuned to local needs.

Ellen began her career at DuPont in 1988. In 2006, she was named Executive Vice-President with responsibility for three business platforms and several functions including Marketing and Sales. In 2008, she was chosen to lead the company’s focus on growth in emerging international markets.

Ellen is a member of the board of directors of United Technologies Corp. She is also on the board of trustees of Tufts University and serves on the board of overseers at Tufts University School of Engineering. Ellen became a member of the board of Change the Equation, a national coalition of more than 100 CEOs committed to improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning for US Pre K-12 students.

ISO Focus+ : Standards were once mainly perceived as tools solving problems for engineers. Today, as the CEO of one of the world’s largest multinational companies, how do you view their importance ?

Ellen Kullman : Standards have become an essential part of daily business, not just in terms of quality but also in terms of occupational safety, environmental management and other disciplines.

International Standards enable operational excellence and standardization across our complex global company. They are also key to our relationships with partner companies since they build a foundation for mutual trust and common understanding based on clear specifications and performance expectations.

ISO Focus+ : With products like nylon and Teflon® revolutionizing industry, innovation is a key priority for DuPont. Do standards help or hinder innovation – and how ?

Ellen Kullman : The innovation process is complex and can vary by product and market. At DuPont we strongly believe that the power of innovation resides in collaboration with our partners. International Standards help create more seamless collaboration across borders, thus further enabling the process of innovation.

DuPont participates in, and contributes to, standards development and committees around the world. This is important for new product technologies and helps ensure strong product stewardship.

About DuPont

DuPont (NYSE : DD) has been bringing world-class science and engineering to the global marketplace in the form of innovative products, materials, and services since 1802.
The company believes that, by collaborating with customers, governments, NGOs, and thought leaders, we can help find solutions to such global challenges as providing enough healthy food for people everywhere, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, and protecting life and the environment.

For additional information about DuPont and its commitment to inclusive innovation, please visit www.dupont.com.

ISO Focus+ : Some 20 years ago, DuPont was among the first multinationals to take up the ISO 9000 approach to quality management. What is the extent of DuPont’s implementation of ISO 9001 and other ISO management system standards today ? What contribution have they made and are they still making to the company ? What would you like to see in the next revision of ISO 9001 in 2015 ?

Ellen Kullman : The development of ISO 9001 has helped us to considerably improve our processes, both for our customers and our full value chain. We also use the requirements of ISO 9001 to develop our own control processes, including appropriate key performance indicators which help us stay focused in daily business activities. The DuPont Production System in place at our global operating sites incorporates all aspects of manufacturing and continual improvement in a holistic, standards-driven approach to operational excellence. We utilize the ISO 14001 system as part of our global environmental management system, and we take a standards-based approach to the management of occupational safety. This disciplined process has led to a trend of continued long-term improvement.

ISO Focus+ : DuPont experts participate in 10 or more ISO technical committees developing standards on subjects as diverse as nanotechnologies, road vehicles, fire safety and agricultural machinery. What’s the return on investment for this engagement ?

Ellen Kullman : DuPont is a 21st century science company with global markets and opportunities. By working together we can find new and better ways to solve global challenges and provide for the food, energy, and protection needs of the world’s growing population. Collaborating with other companies, stakeholders and innovators through the work on ISO technical committees is just one example of what we mean by Inclusive Innovation – no one organization alone can solve these complex issues.

ISO Focus+ : We are dedicating this issue of ISO Focus+ to women in standardization to celebrate International Women’s Day. DuPont has been named among the Top 100 Best Places to Work for Working Mothers (2011) and Top 50 Companies for Executive Women (2012). Why is gender equality so important to the company and how do you achieve it ?

Ellen Kullman : Respect for people is a key DuPont core value and sets the tone for how we operate around the globe. We strive to ensure that all of our employees are valued, valued for their knowledge, talents and unique perspectives. The strength and capability of each individual at DuPont is a significant asset to the company. We strive to hire, train and retain the best possible talent from around the world. To do this, we must foster an environment of diversity across all of our businesses and functions.

DuPont biologists Hong Wang (left) and Natalie Weber (right) work to extract polymeric materials from plants. 
(Photo: DuPont Image)
DuPont biologists Hong Wang (left) and Natalie Weber (right) work to extract polymeric materials from plants. (Photo: DuPont Image)

ISO Focus+ : DuPont is focusing on the challenges of food security, protecting a growing population and energy as key areas where it can help make a difference. Can you briefly tell us about these initiatives ?

Ellen Kullman : Throughout the company’s history, DuPont has created solutions through science that have solved big challenges, and we continue that tradition today. Our science is the engine that drives DuPont. Together with our partners, we are working with more people in more places than ever before to create transformative products and services that will help ensure a more secure food supply, find new energy sources and protect people where they work and live.

Our efforts are not restricted to the high-performance products, technologies and services that we offer, but extend to efforts to engage a common dialogue on these important issues. For example, we have worked with The Economist Intelligence Unit to create a Food Security Index that offers a uniform definition for the root causes of food insecurity and, in doing so, aligns all stakeholders to be able to address these challenges together.

I served as a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center Energy Board, a group that studied America’s energy resurgence and made recommendations on American energy policy.

These are just a few of the efforts we are working on today.

ISO Focus+ : Today we are living in a fast-paced, constantly evolving world. ISO’s portfolio of 19 500 standards on everything from nanotec hnologies to social responsibility reflect this. Do you ever think : “ I wish there was a standard on that ! ” – if so, could you share some ideas ?

Ellen Kullman : DuPont believes that in order to encourage innovation and investment and foster sustainable global economic growth, increased consistency of standards is critical. If the same standards are similarly recognized by regulatory bodies around the world, then new products and technologies will develop and commercialize more rapidly to help us meet the challenges of a growing world population. 

DuPont’s new Innovation Center for global collaboration

ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele took part in a discussion forum organized during the opening of the second DuPont Innovation Center for Europe, the Middle East and Africa in January 2013. The new centre is housed in the European Technical Center, in Meyrin, Switzerland, which has been spearheading research and technical innovation for over 20 years. Customers, academics and research partners as well as representatives from major international companies also attended the ceremony, alongside Mark Vergnano, DuPont’s Executive Vice-President.

This is the 10th Innovation Center worldwide and the second to be launched at an existing DuPont research site. The global network of centres provides a unique space where strategic partners from industry, academia and government can connect and pool their knowledge, on site or via remote video conferencing.

So, is innovation on the right track ? “ I believe innovation is on the right track, ” said Mark Vergnano. “ For example, I believe we are just starting to understand the power that biotechnology will have in transforming and creating new advanced materials.”

Panellists agreed on the importance of innovation to remain competitive and respond to market trends. However, International Standards are crucial to making these ideas a reality, said the ISO Secretary-General. They enable interoperability, and facilitate economies of scale, increasing the market potential of new products.