What is Sustainable Growth? While it can mean different things to different companies, for more than a decade, sustainable growth has been the core direction – the very mission – of DuPont. Whether your business is just starting down this path or you already have a robust sustainability program in place, I think it can be helpful for professionals to share tried and true best practices and lessons learned, so that we can all continue to grow and improve.  As I share more about what we’re doing at DuPont, I hope to hear from you about the insights you have gleaned that can help us all on our sustainability journey.

Editor's note: James Weigand is an employee of DuPont. DuPont is a sponsor of Sustainable Business Forum.

So, how did we get started? I believe every company should have a set of guiding principles, but at a company with more than 60,000 employees in 90 countries, it’s essential. At DuPont, four core values guide us and bind us together as a company as we pursue our mission: a commitment to safety and health, respect for people, environmental stewardship and the highest ethical behavior. Strong, visible leadership and an integrated management approach are other key ingredients in our proven formula. These core values shape our corporate culture and inform every decision we make. This is the foundation from which everything else at DuPont thrives.

This year marks two safety milestones at our company: it’s been 200 years since DuPont implemented our first safety rules, and we’re celebrating 100 years of having safety as a core value. From the start, our founder, E. I. du Pont, made the safety of his employees and neighbors a priority. He established a number of safety rules designed to protect his workers, and perhaps most significantly, the du Pont family members lived and worked among their employees, demonstrating their willingness to share with them the very real risks of the business. The result is that today DuPont has built a reputation for being one of the safest companies in the world, and one of our key businesses, DuPont Sustainable Solutions, is helping outside organizations become world-class safety performers, as well.

This illustrates my earlier point about the importance of having core values. The absolute commitment to safety at the top of our company permeates throughout the entire DuPont organization. It is the result of combining strong leadership with integrated organizational structures, operating processes, managing systems, policies and procedures, and communication protocols that reinforce the thinking and behaviors that help keep us and others stay safe.

I’ve spent the last 30 years of my career with this company in a number of different roles, touching so many different parts of our business. What I’ve learned from this experience is that an unwavering commitment to ethical behavior is absolutely essential for sustainable growth. Ethics and sustainability must be a part of everything a company does, from creating business strategies and goals, to developing business models and processes, to building relationships with employees, partners, suppliers and other key stakeholders.

Next week, I’ll continue talking about sustainable growth and will share more information on what we at DuPont call the Integrated Management Approach. I believe this approach is necessary for businesses to remain successful, and I’ll tell you more about how we apply it at our company.

In the meantime, please share your thoughts here on sustainable growth. How does your organization think about sustainability? Is it woven into the fabric of your business processes?