Interview with Ellen Kullman Chair of the Board and CEO DuPont

Issue 48 – April 2013

This article first appeared in ISO Focus+ March 2013. It is summarised here with permission from ISO.

As CEO of DuPont, 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.

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 standardisation 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® revolutionising 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.

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?

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 Quality management systems – Requirements 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 utilise the ISO 14001 Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use 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 organisation alone can solve these complex issues.

ISO Focus+: 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.

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.

About DuPont

DuPont 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, it 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, visit

Published in engineering.

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