Lynne Puckett Knows Sustainability Is the Solution

With the help of General Counsel Lynne Puckett, Celanese is securing a name for itself as a global leader in sustainability

Photo: Gillian Fry

Lynne Puckett has spent her adult life working side by side with some of the sharpest minds in America: she spent five years working at the CIA, sixteen years honing her legal skills at top firms like Hogan Lovells, and nearly a decade working as general counsel, senior vice president, and corporate secretary at Colfax Corporation, a diversified technology company that provides orthopedic care and fabrication technology products and services around the world.

But Puckett has never seen anything quite like the teams at Celanese—teams who are passionate not only about what they do but also about how that work impacts their communities and the world.

The Celanese Vision

When Puckett was first contacted about the general counsel and senior vice president position at Celanese, she had no thought of leaving her team at Colfax—a team she had had to build from scratch and continued to expand upon as the company went through a period of tremendous growth.

But as soon as she sat down for coffee with Celanese’s CEO, she could tell that this was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

“It was a chance to learn a different industry, in a new city, at an S&P 500 company with about $7 billion in revenue,” Puckett recalls. “But more than anything, what I perceived was a strong vision coming from an incredibly dynamic and energetic management team. And that is still true of the company today.” 

Lynne Puckett Celanese
Lynne Puckett, CelanesePhoto: Gillian Fry

That sense of vision and energy has propelled Celanese to its current status as a leading chemical and special materials corporation whose products are used in everything from racecars and airplanes to perfume bottles and medical technologies. But as Puckett has seen for herself since joining Celanese in February 2019, a great deal of the company’s sense of purpose stems not simply from its commitment to increasing revenue but rather from its dedication to a higher cause.

“Celanese has a really, really heavy focus on community and volunteerism,” Puckett says. “There is such an effort to give back to the community, to protect the community, and to make sure that our processes are as efficient as we can make them in terms of water and energy usage and emissions. We are always thinking about how we can increase recyclability or make products with bio-based materials like wood and vinegar.

“But when Lori [Ryerkerk] came in as CEO,” Puckett continues, “she said, ‘This is such a critical area, we need to take it even further.’”

Where Are We At?

One of the first things Ryerkerk did was to ask Puckett to lead the company’s first environmental, social, and governance (ESG) council.

The council has representatives from all different departments and functions at Celanese, including representatives from the company’s overseas locations. Those representatives are tasked with oversight of all environmental, social, and governance issues, but as Puckett explains, one area has received far more attention than the others.

“Celanese already has social and governance matters really well in hand. This is the most integrated, respectful, and diverse workplace I’ve ever worked in,” Puckett enthuses. “These days, diversity and inclusion can sound like buzzwords, but I’ve never seen those values lived like they are here.”

Lynne Puckett Celanese
Photo: Gillian Fry

Thus, for the past year and more, Puckett and her colleagues on the ESG council have focused on amplifying and promoting the company’s efforts to protect the environment. The first task? Data collection and analysis.

“The company is putting a lot of energy and resources into the question of how we can power ourselves better and produce in a more environmentally friendly way,” says Puckett, who serves as the head of the council. “In 2019, we worked to fully and accurately capture all company activities in that arena—there’s a lot of rigor involved in monitoring each and every aspect of energy consumption, emissions control, and water usage.”

Celanese has put an elaborate array of software systems in place to monitor its impact on various areas in the environment, Puckett says, but she and the other council members have also been working to garner information from another group of stakeholders.

“We’ve reached out to holders of more than 75 percent of Celanese shares to discuss these issues, and between phone and in-person conversations, we ended up speaking with holders of more than half of our outstanding shares,” Puckett says. “We talked with them about what is available to us in our ESG analyses, where they thought the metrics were and should be, and what was relevant or important to them in this area. And they wanted to have that input.”

Undeniable Impact

In the past five years, Celanese has expanded its efforts to protect the earth and the communities that it houses far beyond the establishment of the ESG Council. In fact, as the numbers show, the company has made truly remarkable efforts to improve its stewardship of the global environment.

2013–2018 Intensity Reductions

28% in greenhouse gases

32% in total waste

29% in volatile organic compounds

In 2019

120 site conservation projects

$16M in sustainable cost savings

 Source: Celanese

Sustainability: A Part of Celanese Life

Based on all this data and input, Puckett says, Celanese will gain a better understanding of how their metrics compare with those of other leaders in the chemistry industry. Even further, she emphasizes, the company will be able to pinpoint the adjustments needed to revamp the company’s ESG reporting efforts in 2021 and the years ahead.

“We felt like we had good messages in place regarding ESG before this council was started, but those messages were scattered throughout our website,” Puckett remarks. “We needed to take our messaging to the next level to make sure people were becoming aware of our efforts. These issues, especially sustainability, are important to everyone—our customers, investors, neighbors, and employees throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas.”

Puckett’s external partners see how her leadership will further the ESG’s success. “As usual, Lynne’s support of and focus on ESG distinguishes her as a leader and first-mover in her profession,” says Paul Genender, partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with her on this important topic.”

Kirkland & Ellis Partner David Feirstein agrees. “Lynne’s strategic thinking, leadership and overall excellence is unsurpassed, and it has been a pleasure to work alongside her,” he says. “Her commitment to making a positive impact and doing things the right way is apparent in all she does. There is no doubt that Lynne will be a driving force behind Celanese’s ESG success, and will make a real difference to communities around the world.”

But to Puckett, increasing awareness of Celanese’s sustainability efforts is not just a good business decision. It’s also intensely personal.

“My husband is from Germany, so I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe,” Puckett says. “And when you’re in Europe, recycling is just a part of life: it’s not even something people have to think about. And then you come to the US, and you see people still throwing trash out of their car windows.

“I have three kids, and I want to make sure that they care about this issue,” the GC adds. “Sustainability efforts are increasingly about intelligent young people who join the workforce and speak out. To them, it’s not just about profit for profit’s sake anymore.”

Sidley Austin congratulates Lynne Puckett on this well-deserved recognition. She is an experienced general counsel who is an asset to her company and community. We are honored to partner with Lynne and the entire Celanese team in their efforts to make a positive impact in their communities and the world, including the pro bono efforts we are engaged in with the legal team.” –Yvette Ostolaza, Partner

We congratulate our friend Lynne Puckett for her achievements and well-deserved recognition. As one of the largest U.S.-based firms, Haynes and Boone has seen significant growth because of our ability to collaborate with clients to solve problems, and we thank Lynne for giving us that opportunity with Celanese.