Rich Helling, Sc.D

Global EHS Expertise Principal, Sustainability/Life Cycle Assessment
Dow

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

I am part of Dow’s corporate Sustainability group, as the “Global Expertise Principal” for Sustainability and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).  I focus on developing and using metrics to describe the sustainability performance of Dow business units and products.  This provides quantitative benchmarks for improvement and bringing benefit to us and society.  I am the senior expert in LCA at Dow, so I still do some projects but also teach and guide a growing number of LCA practitioners.

What training was particularly important to enabling your work?

Working in sustainability (and LCA) requires both the ability to look at the big picture (technical, economic and social) and to do quantitative analysis.  Courses in sustainability or LCA didn’t exist when I was in school, but I did pick courses (and opportunities) that included both quantitative work and qualitative work (not necessarily in the same class, but in the overall selection of courses).  As undergrad, I had majors in Engineering and in History.  Knowing basic statistics and accounting is very helpful.

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

One doesn’t need a job title in sustainability to work on things important to sustainability and climate!  This is focus that can be brought to a wide range of roles and titles. Opportunities are many, and the dire need is clearer every day.  Have an open mind about how to get to a more sustainable society, but keep the end goals in mind.  And remember there will always be trade-offs and tough choices to make.  Getting us away from “business as usual” is not easy or painless.