In recent years, 3M has committed to sustainability in ever-increasing amounts. David Gurden-Williams of 3M United Kingdom PLC describes how 3M’s sustainability goals have now been aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. By David Gurden-Williams. Product Stewardship Specialist, Corporate R&D, North Europe Region, 3M United Kingdom PLC

In recent years, 3M has committed to sustainability in ever-increasing amounts. 3M’s sustainability goals have now been aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals as summarised in the three pillars below. The three key goals for the company are (i) achieving carbon neutrality by 2050; (ii) reducing water use by 25% at its facilities; (iii) returning higher quality water to the environment after use in manufacturing operations. 

Over the past year, 3M has engaged in sustainability activities around the world including:

  • becoming a patron sponsor of the UN global compact sustainable development goals (SDG) ambition aimed at helping companies integrate the UN SDG into core business objectives, and thereby advance sustainable impact and global progress against the goals. Ultimately, this will help companies take more ambitious business actions towards achieving the SDGs by 2030. 3Mers spanning Canada, the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Africa will participate.
  • Supporting alternative energy sources, for example with 3M Wind Blade Protection Tape that can help protect the leading edge of wind turbine blades against weathering and harsh environments, ultimately enhancing reliability and improving the performance of wind turbines. 3M also offers a suite of technologies that are helping to power the production of lighter, more durable, energy-efficient electric vehicles. This portfolio includes adhesives and alternative solutions that can be used in place of heavier materials and required fastening methods like spot welding, rivets and bolts. For example, high-strength, low-density glass bubbles can enable weight reductions of up to 30% or more in many different materials. Making electric vehicles lighter, yet just as strong means less energy is required to propel the vehicle and their range is longer. 3M window film solutions can help with thermal management—rejecting solar energy and heat-producing infrared rays to reduce the stress on temperature control systems and lower overall energy consumption.
  • At the end of 2019, nearly a third of 3M’s total global electricity use was sourced from renewables, and at the start of 2021, all 3M Poland locations and 3M Canada’s head office in London, Ontario, joined our global headquarters in powering their facilities using 100% renewable sources.
  • 3M has been part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to advance circular economy since 2019 and is collaborating with fellow members to drive greater global impact. 
  • 3M has supported The Recycling Partnership for more than four years, and in 2020, we provided the initial investment for its Recycling Inclusion Fund to advance recycling infrastructure and education, and research into the challenges that prevent a more equitable recycling system. 
  • 3M was also an initial funder for Closed Loop Partners in 2014 and joined fellow founding investors to reinvest more than $54 million in 2020. More recently, 3M has co-funded projects like the U.S. and Canada Recycling Infrastructure and Plastic Waste Map—a first-of-its-kind public tool highlighting and tracking the diversity of plastic waste as well as opportunities to recapture valuable plastics and re-incorporate them into the manufacturing supply chain.
  • 3M Canada became the first Canadian enterprise to be certified to ISO 50001 (Energy Management Systems) with Superior Energy Performance at Platinum Level. This certification, combined with other certifications and facility improvements, has delivered a 22% energy intensity improvement for the company and helped to lower the overall environmental impact. 3M has 45 ISO 50001 certified sites globally and 11 more will be certified by the end of 2021.
  • 3M joined Maxit and the German Ministry of Education and Research in 2013 to propose project funding that would allow the team to research using 3M Glass Bubbles in insulation and construction materials.
  • 3M has joined the Water Resilience Coalition (WRC), taking one more step forward in its ongoing commitment to help the nearly two billion people worldwide living in water-stressed and water-scarce communities. By joining the WRC leadership committee and endorsing the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, 3M will be working to preserve the world’s freshwater resources and achieve a net positive water impact. It will also be better positioned to advance ongoing work to improve the environment and build a brighter future around the world.  For example, 3M began working with the Juarez (Mexico) City Water Department in 2016 to receive treated wastewater for on-site services. In 2017, 80% of the total water consumed in three out of five buildings was treated or recycled water and in 2020, the site transitioned the remaining two buildings. The project expects to save 10 million litres (2.6 million gallons) of water. 
  • 3M has been recognised with the Market Trailblazer Award from RE100, a global initiative bringing together the world’s most influential businesses committed to 100% renewable power.  

Building on the company’s global capabilities and diverse technologies, 3M products drive positive environmental impact around the world. Examples include: 

  • Semiconductor and electronics: 3M products enable more efficient semiconductor manufacturing and improve the performance and lifespan of electronic devices, as we move toward a paperless world.
  • Recycled content and plant-based materials: 3M is helping expand the supply chain and demand for recycled materials by making products with post-consumer recycled content and leading plant-based material innovation in iconic everyday products like ScotchTape, Post-it Notes, and Scotch-Brite Sponges. 
  • Automotive electrification: 3M materials for assembling and light-weighting, like glass bubbles, are powering the next generation of vehicles and battery technologies, helping shed pounds per vehicle and enabling better overall fuel economy and battery range. 
  • Energy-efficient buildings: 3M window film solutions help keep the heat out and the cool air in, making buildings more efficient and reducing the energy needed to heat and cool the places where people live and work. 
  • Renewable energy: 3M films, tapes, and adhesive technologies help solar panels capture more light, increasing efficiency, and help protect wind turbine blades against weathering and harsh environments, ultimately enhancing reliability, extending life, and improving performance. 
  • Improving indoor air quality: 3M Filtrete Room Air Purifiers and heating and cooling solutions help capture airborne particles, including dust, lint, pet dander and bacteria, reducing indoor air pollutants and making homes and workplaces safer.
  • Extending the life of materials is the best way to reduce impact. As an innovation that gives new life to outdated fixtures, 3M DI-NOC Architectural Finishes are films that refurbish surfaces and keep them in use for longer.
  • 3M Natural Pozzolans is a material that can be used as a partial replacement of cement in concrete. Cement is a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions, and for every ton of natural pozzolans used to displace cement, CO2 emissions can be reduced by an estimated 0.75 tons.
  • The 3M Medical Solutions Division (MSD) took on the challenge of reducing emissions associated with the use of medical tape adhesives. Since 1985, MSD has been working to develop products that use hot melt adhesives which don’t require solvents in their creation. With hot-melt adhesives, no solvent byproducts are created and solvent-based emissions are effectively eliminated. Today, most 3M medical tapes and dressings are manufactured without the use of solvents, using either hot melt or water-based adhesives instead.
  • 3M Smog-reducing Granules harness the power of the sun to turn roofing shingles into a pollution-fighting surface. When the sun hits the granules, the photocatalytic coating transforms the smog pollution (nitrogen oxides) into water-soluble ions that easily wash away with rain.
  • 3M Thinsulate 100% Recycled Featherless Insulation is made with 100% post-consumer recycled content and offers a more sustainable alternative to natural down. It is featured in what Minneapolis-based outerwear brand Askov Finlayson calls “the world’s first climate-positive winter parka.”
  • By repairing and servicing customers’ electronic devices, 3M’s Health Care Service Group (HCSG) keeps 300,000 devices in working order each year—advancing the circular economy by reducing electronic waste and extending the life of 3M products. With repair locations in 18 countries and connections with over 80 authorised service providers around the world, HCSG provides service and support for more than 50 different 3M health care products.
  • 3M Dual Brightness Enhancement Film is a family of reflective polarisers used to recycle light and bring a brighter view to all viewers in front of a device and can increase the energy efficiency in a device, whether it’s plugged in or running on battery power.

“We look forward to sharing our continued progress and how we can work together to build a more sustainable and resilient world.” – Gayle Schueller, 3M senior vice president and chief sustainability officer.

In November 2021, at COP 26 in Glasgow, 3M signed a three-year partnership with the UNFCCC, the UN forum for climate change who work collaboratively with governments, the private sector, foundations, international organisations, academia, NGOs, UN agencies and others. This is a clear demonstration of 3M’s ambition and leadership in ESG, specifically climate action. 3M is the only manufacturer invited to this partnership and based on 3M supporting the UN in bringing knowledge and solutions for the transition to net-zero. 3M will collaborate throughout the next 3 years with the UNFCC including COP 27 in Egypt and COP 28 in Dubai.

 

3M, Scotch, Post-it, Scotch-Brite, Filtrete, Di-NOC and Thinsulate are trademarks or registered trademarks of the 3M Company.

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