André Yvon-Bessette, Ph.D. (He / His / Him)

Associate Research Scientist
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Center of Expertise & Process Chemistry
Dow

How is your job related to climate and/or sustainability?

My role at Dow is a hybrid between the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Center of Expertise and the Process Chemistry team within the Engineering & Process Science organization in Core R&D. On the Process Chemistry side, I focus on green manufacturing through the use of continuous flow chemistry and bio-sourced cellulose ether derivatives. On the LCA side, I provide support to our businesses and customers for the environmental impact assessment of our broad range of products and processes. This is done through building models accounting for all the inputs and outputs of our operations across the supply chain and understanding the techno-economic aspects. I also analyze various scenarios for projects in our innovation portfolio to ensure we take the best business decisions both from an economic and environmental standpoint. Through various internal efforts, I help educate our scientific workforce on life cycle thinking and provide resources to help them innovate with sustainability in mind. An example of my involvement is through chairing the Sustainability R&D Network for the benefit of our ~500 members across the globe and ensure corporate alignment. Our network’s mission is to share best practices across Dow’s R&D organizations to accelerate delivery of sustainable innovations.

What training was particularly important to enabling your work?

During my Ph.D., I developed photovoltaic materials for Organic Photovoltaic (OPV) and Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSC) in an industrial partnership. I also have a strong background in process development, both for specialty and commodity chemicals, acquired in industry and as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at MIT. As part of the Research Assignment Program at Dow, I had the opportunity to work closely with our leadership to answer a seemingly simple question: what is the best approach to characterize the sustainability component in our R&D pipeline? Knowing that Dow’s product portfolio is broad and spans the whole value chain, the answer is much more complex than one would hope. As the strategic focus moves across the value chain from process innovation for efficient access to building blocks to a product innovation mindset to improve performance, our analysis method of the sustainability benefits must also evolve. Through the life cycle thinking approach, I was able to provide Dow’s corporate leaders a better understanding of how to quantify sustainability benefits across a broad R&D portfolio of products, chemistries, and processes. This project was key in helping me develop a broader perspective on R&D activities and sustainability.

What advice do you have for people looking for careers in climate and/or sustainability? 

Focus on understanding the interface between scientific fields, corporate functions and societal challenges! Sustainability is a very complex and rapidly evolving topic that requires a holistic understanding of socio-economic and scientific imperatives to enable disruptive innovations that will help save the Planet.