Dow works to keep staff in the loop about spinoff

Dow Chemical has reached out to employees to explain the "complicated" nature of its plan to separate its chlorine business through a potential sale.

NEW YORK: Dow Chemical has reached out to employees to explain the “complicated” nature of its plan to separate its chlorine business through a potential sale.

“Change management is such a priority in deals like this, as well as ensuring everyone is treated respectfully,” said Louise Adhikari, Dow's director of integrated corporate affairs. “The key to any employee communications is transparency. As much as we are able to, and as soon as we are able to, we keep all our employees informed directly about matters like this and how it will affect them.”

Since 2009, Dow Chemical has divested non-core businesses worth about $8 billion. Most recently, Dow sold its global polypropylene licensing and catalysts business, part of about $700 million worth of divestitures in the past year. The most recent announcement is another part of the company's long-term transformation from a commodity chemicals player to a specialty materials player, according to Adhikari.

“We have identified $5 billion in assets that are not core to our business moving forward that we are going to carve out from what is Dow today,” said Adhikari. “We will look at a mixture of business opportunities, such as joint ventures, or sales to other people to find a better owner for those assets.”

She explained that this is a complicated spinoff in terms of businesses, because much of the science will be integrated into what Dow does.

Yet until the deal is complete, it is business as usual for the company and its communications team.

“In terms of staff that would be impacted by any change to ownership of the business, we have done a lot of thorough, in-person discussions,” said Adhikari. “On a broader employee base, we have an Intranet-based news source where we share info with the wider population.”

The deal could affect the communications team, which is set up to align department members to businesses, sites, and geography.

“Depending on how the business deals end up – and we fully expect it to be a combination of deals versus one single change – that will determine any impact directly on members of staff, including the communications department,” Adhikari said.

“We are experienced with this; Dow does a lot in this space with bringing people into the company, or having staff move out,” she added. “We are looking at a 12- to 24-month time frame; there is no way of knowing what and who is going to be affected.”

External PR efforts about the spinoff have included Q&A sessions with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris, and IR activities have included a webcast for the investor community. The company also used its Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn channels to amplify the news.

Dow has a number of PR agencies on its roster that may also be affected by the deal. Adhikari would not disclose which firms Dow works with.

Dow's Water and Process Solutions business works with Gibbs & Soell. Last October, the company also expanded its work with GolinHarris when Dow Building and Construction hired GolinHarris as its PR AOR.  

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