Back in 1999 or 2000, someone in the PR department at multinational "science" company DuPont thought it would be fun to put a casual, informal spin on the company's product development in fields like biotechnology and plastics. So the company commissioned a Web page designed to look like a journal in a spiral bound notebook, complete with photos taped in and scribbles on the page, and called it the company's "To Do List."

The page succeeds brilliantly, marrying the company's achievements and research to perceived global problems. (Although the list is padded a bit). Here now, for the purposes of critique and review, is the list:

To Do List for the Planet

    Oh, for the planet. Silly me, I thought you were doing this for your bottom line.
  1. Make food grow where food can't grow.
      One place "where food can't grow" is in a field of weeds and insects- so all those chemical herbicides and pesticides will come in handy. Dupont has had success with hybrid and genetically modified seeds which allow for crops to flourish in harsh conditions or short growing seasons. Forgot to add: "you also can't grow food without signing our terms and conditions regulating the use of proprietary agricultural products."
  2. Turn ocean water into drinking water. (Did that)
  3. Save historical treasures from disintegrating.
  4. Find food that helps prevent breast cancer.
      Looks like they've found the food, and it's soy! But now what? DuPont isn't a food company. They make agricultural and pharmaceutical products. So DuPont is working on isolating the soy goodness but removing that "distinct soy taste" that makes it so "unpalatable." How about a marketing slogan like, "All the Soy - None of the Taste!"
  5. Help make clothes that clean themselves. (Did that)
      Let's see- getting clothing manufacturers to treat all their clothes with Teflon is good for the planet because.... er... because... oh, here, Dupont spells it out for me: "Whether it's a favorite blouse, a new slipcover or a pair of jeans, great expense is generated in trying to remove stains, and great disappointment occurs when they're not." Dupont: tackling the global disappointment pandemic.
  6. Make humans in the Arctic as comfortable as everyone else. (Done)
      "Everyone else" apparently is a euphemism for polar bears. Whether DuPont scientists were really inspired by polar bear fur to make their Thermolite isn't the point-- the point is, how do we get a picture of a happy, noble animal in the wild on our corporate Web site?
  7. Develop medicines that fight HIV. (Did that)
      And won't do it again. DuPont took a beating in the press when it released its AIDS drug Sustiva. Activists slammed the company for price gouging-- even though Sustiva was one of the cheaper AIDS therapies. Turns out that this campaign was well funded behind the scenes from competitors like Glaxo and Merck, who don't like upstarts undercutting their prices (Pressuring DuPont to lower their prices would mean that Federal AIDS drug subsidies would continue to flow to the manufacturers of higher priced drugs...See http://www.magnusnews.com/00apr/deform.htm). DuPont sold its pharmaceutical division to Bristol Meyers Squibb for US$7.8 billion in 2001. (http://cnnfn.com/2001/06/07/deals/dupont/index.htm )
  8. Find ways for cars to hide their scratches. (Working on it)
      DuPont wants to protect your car from tree sap. And pollution. And it wants you to know that as the world's largest supplier of car paint, it is fully cooperating with the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into price fixing.
  9. Invent typhoon resistant glass. (Did that)
      And if this global warming thing takes off, our window division will have it made!
      Lackey: But sir, if our windows survive the typhoon, our customers won't buy more.
      Boss man: We're not dummies. Our glass isn't typhoon-proof. It's typhoon resistant.
  10. Find food that helps prevent osteoporosis.
      DuPont concludes that too much animal protein in the diet leaches calcium from your bones. Time for more soy-free soy! (See breast cancer, above)
  11. Invent fabric that "knows" to either warm you or cool you. (Did that)
  12. Add lycra to leather. (Did that)
  13. Invent high-performance fiber that's made the natural way- from plants.

Here's one they left off the list:
14. Fire 4000 employees. (Did that, April 2001)

Suggestions for DuPont, to add to list:

  1. Get better legal representation before the Supreme Court. (http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/articles.html?id=010605000792) Either that, or enforce your anti-discrimination policies at work.
  2. Remind public that you've reduced your global carbon emissions by 60% since 1991. (Technically, the equivalent of 60% of your global carbon emissions... when you calculate in the reductions made by other companies that then sold you their emission rights)
  3. Two words: fuel cells.

 

Source: <http://www.dupont.com/corp/whats-new/newsfile/todo/todo.html> (4 June 2001)
This URL is no longer current, but can be viewed via the Internet Archive at <www.archive.org>

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