Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

TR: So did you guys work out a deal?
Holliday: Well, he said, as soon as you get that display, bring it to me.

TR: It’s interesting, you’re talking about DuPont and Microsoft entering into the same turf, and that’s not what you think of with a chemical company and a software company.

Holliday: It’s a very good observation, because one of my bigger competitors in the displays market is Sony. They come at it from the user end, we come at it from the solution end. And so we’re both kind of crowding each other’s space. In the old days, I would just go sell Sony, or Sony’s supplier, a material. Now what I want is to sell a display or a component for a display. I think you’ll see us do more and more of that.

TR: So do you think that in 10 or 20 years, DuPont will be a much different company?
Holliday: Without a doubt, because every 10 or 20 years we are a much different company. We made a very strategic decision a couple of years ago to get out of the energy business. We made another key decision earlier this year to get out of the pharmaceutical business. Great business, great industry, but when you’re a billion-and-a-half-dollar pharmaceuticals player with a $500 million pharmaceuticals research budget and the other guy’s got $3 to $4 billion, how do you really make a difference? In this case, we weren’t willing to commit up to 25 percent of our total company research budget to a business that was no longer a strategic priority. We’ll focus where we’ll make a difference for our shareholders. So in plant science we will be a leader, in bio-based materials we will be a leader, and we will lead in electronic systems. We’re the third-largest company supplying materials to the electronic industry today. I’d like to be number one. These are areas where we can win, and so that’s our thrust.

TR: You talk a lot about the environment and sustainability. It doesn’t seem to fit the image of a big chemical company that’s one of the world’s largest polluters.
Holliday: About 12 years ago, we were labeled the largest industrial “polluter” in the U.S. based on EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory reporting. We were there because of our deep-well disposal of aqueous wastes. These were legal wastes, but we just put more stuff out there than anybody else. We decided that’s not where we wanted to be. And we concluded that if we put our engineering talent to it, we could clean up our processes and make money for our shareholders at the same time. It goes without saying that we went after the bad actors first-anything that posed a serious risk to human health and the environment.

TR: How does the energy picture figure into this for you?
Holliday: There are two ways. First, we set a goal that by 2010 we would cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent, using 1990 as the base year. We had some pretty good ideas how to do it, and we expect to be at 60 percent reduction this year, so we’re almost there. Second, we said we would get 10 percent of our energy from renewable resources by 2010. This was pretty gutsy. We could do it tomorrow if we just wanted to pay the price, but that’s not the idea. We want to do it in a way that makes money. We just had a review of this goal, and we’ve made a lot of progress.

TR: Not going to hit the target?
Holliday: We will. We’re at two percent for 2000, and we have several years left to go. We’re examining all our options. Right now one that appears to offer us the most is gas from landfills as a substitute for natural gas. We’ve got about seven sites where we’ve already found a landfill close enough to our plant that we can just run a pipe and use it. I can visualize where landfill gas could be a big part of the 10 percent and make us money doing it.

TR: Where do you stand on the Kyoto protocol?
Holliday: We believe that global warming is an issue, and we believe the world should start taking pertinent steps around that. Some aspects of the Kyoto protocol are a very good start, such as the emissions trading mechanisms. We think by getting a trading system set up where the lowest-cost company can do it and sell the credit to somebody else is a very positive step forward. Aspects to the Kyoto protocol are just not right, such as developing countries not having to get into the game early. It’s hard to get all these nations together to do something, so why don’t you start with the fundamentals of Kyoto and improve it, make it better?

TR: DuPont is one of the most global companies in the world and may be in a better position to see something about the economy than others. So I wanted to ask you for a bit of economic forecasting.
Holliday: Well, in September 2000, we were the first to come out and say, this economy is getting bad. And the initial responses were, what’s wrong with DuPont? But about five weeks later, you saw a lot of reports just like ours. If you’re selling materials, or making cars or electronics or clothes, the U.S. volume is off drastically. Europe has gone down-not nearly as drastically as the U.S., but it has turned down. Asia’s turning down, and South America’s down. I can’t recall a time when the volume was simultaneously dropping in all the major regions of the world.

Now, there are some signs that could say the U.S. is bottoming out right now, but we’re not banking on that. The dollar for us is at a 15-year high. And then I’ve got high energy prices. So when you put all those things together, it’s not a very pretty scenario. We don’t see the upturn yet in sight. I hope, in a few months, we will. But we’re not going to gear up our plants and start moving until we can see firm demand.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Biomedicine

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me