Diane Kappas believes that protecting the planet for future generations and delivering value to stakeholders are not mutually exclusive. With enhanced targets, new tools and a dedicated global team, she’s striving for both as our first vice president, global sustainability.
Diverse Career Path Leads to Groundbreaking Appointment
Diane has never shied away from forging new paths. She earned her degree in chemical engineering at a time when women in her classes could be counted using one hand – sometimes one finger. Her biggest supporter was her late father, who knew his daughter could thrive in such a male-dominated field.
Thrive she did, starting when she joined us as an intern while still in college. In the 38 years since, Diane has direct or indirect experience in almost every aspect of our company. She has run businesses, served as a plant manager and held leadership roles in supply chain management, human resources, and environment, health and safety. In all, she’s worked in nine of our businesses past and present and four of our corporate functions.
To drive the change necessary to embed sustainability into our business strategies, the sustainability leader must know how our company works, what the culture and drivers are, and how things get done. My diverse career path has given me this broad-based understanding.
With her appointment as our first vice president, global sustainability, in July 2021, Diane had complete autonomy in forming her team. Around half of her 11 employees around the world are focused externally on delivering more sustainable solutions to customers. The other half is internally focused on improving our own environmental footprint and operating efficiencies and managing the data necessary to generate our external sustainability reporting and disclosures.
Priority Issues Inform New 2030 Targets
As detailed in our 2022 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report, the new team’s impact already has been significant on a global scale. A key achievement was an in-depth assessment of our ESG priority issues to ensure our strategy meets stakeholder expectations. The 13 issues, which range from decarbonization to attracting talent, informed our recently launched 2030 ESG targets.
“We made good progress against our 2025 targets that were set in 2017, but we felt there was opportunity to do more. The 2030 targets directly relate to our ESG priority issues, and we’ll track and voluntarily report our progress against them to all stakeholders in a transparent manner.”
The two new 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) targets – 50% reduction in absolute GHG emissions from our own operations (scope 1 and 2 emissions) and 30% reduction in absolute GHG emissions in our value chain (scope 3 emissions) from a 2019 baseline – put us in an elite group of companies with targets validated according to climate science by the respected Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Calculating the scope 3 emissions alone took our sustainability and life cycle analysis teams well over a year and half to complete.
Heavy lifting was also behind our confidence to increase the target for sales from sustainably advantaged products to 50% by 2030. A year-long effort amassing data on more than 200,000 of our products resulted in a powerful new tool that allows our employees to assess the sustainable advantages of new and existing products quickly and simply.
One of the biggest opportunities we have is helping the world transition to a low-carbon economy through our products. Electric car batteries need protective coatings and sealants. Wind turbines need protective coatings. We want to be the first-choice partner when our customers think about sustainable solutions as they look to decarbonize their own products and processes.
Leaning into the Sustainability Headwinds
The path may not always be smooth, as there are often challenges on the sustainability front. Like other companies around the world, we’re looking to increase our use of renewable energy and renewable feedstock. Resources, however, may not come online fast enough for us to accomplish this.
Another challenge facing Diane and her team is internal.
“We’ve been working on sustainability for years, but we’re now elevating it to be one of the key levers for organic growth. That means changing how our employees do their jobs each day – how to interact with customers, how to develop products, how to spend capital. It’s going to take time, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Key is educating employees on ESG and sustainability, and Diane’s team has created multiple resources to accomplish that. She emphasizes there are opportunities to contribute to the company’s sustainability in every position and function, from using a reusable water bottle to turning off lights and equipment when not needed.
I want to know that when I leave PPG, it’s better than when I came. Part of this is for professional reasons, but another part is that I am passionate about protecting the environment on a personal level. That’s why I feel so fortunate to be given this unique opportunity to make a difference.