Abstract: Tough and Safe: Corporate Research and Social Responsibility at Eastman Chemical

Benjamin Gross


This paper examines how scientists, research managers, and product safety experts at Eastman Chemical commercialized Tritan, a clear, durable plastic utilized in housewares, medical equipment, and infant-care products. Created to provide Eastman with a compound capable of withstanding the high temperatures found in home dishwashers, Tritan's reliance on a previously discredited monomer initially provoked opposition within the company's Tennessee laboratory. The timely implementation of a new set of policies designed to foster exploratory research saved the project from cancellation, and in 2007 Eastman introduced Tritan to the public. Initially marketed on the basis of its physical strength and ease of processing, the new plastic benefitted from the revival of debates over the presence of endocrine disruptors (for example, BPA) in plastics such as polycarbonate. Working with members of the marketing and legal divisions, Eastman's leaders initiated a sweeping campaign to reconfigure Tritan's brand identity to emphasize safety as well as toughness.