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Is sustainability a winning business strategy? 3M thinks so. In this Q&A, 3M shares some insight into its goals and what it plans to achieve next in its sustainability journey. Plus, find out SGP role in 3M sustainability initiatives and how 3M has benefitted from its commitment to sustainability.
Tell us about 3M’s sustainability journey.
3M has a long history of sustainable initiatives, dating back into the early 1970s. One of the earliest initiatives was championed by our then Vice President for Pollution Control and Engineering, Joe Ling. He realized that pollution and waste were really the result of manufacturing inefficiencies. He understood that prevention was the key. We optimized our manufacturing process and initiated the Pollution Prevention Pays (3P) program, which prevents pollution at the source through product reformulation, process modification, equipment redesign and recycling and reusing waste materials. To date, 3M has implemented over 9,300 3P team innovations and prevented more than 3.5 billion pounds of pollution.
What are 3M’s sustainability goals, and what will it achieve next on its sustainability journey?
3M released its first set of environmental goals in 1990. Since then, 3M has cut green house gas emissions by more than 72% worldwide, reduced Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions by 96% and decreased energy usage by 82%. We know we can do more. We’ve set new goals to reach by 2015:
- Reduce volatile air emissions 15% from 2010 base year, indexed to net sales.
- Reduce waste 10% from 2010 base year indexed to net sales.
- Improve energy efficiency 25% from 2005 base year, indexed to net sales.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 5% by 2011 from 2006 base year, indexed to net sales. (Goal was set in 2007).
- Develop water conservation plans when 3M is located in water scarce and stressed areas.
We’re excited and proud that since the inception of these new goals we have achieved an 8.6% reduction in VOCs and a 9.2% reduction in waste. We’ve also improved our energy efficiency by 32% since 2005, reduced greenhouse gases by 55% since 2006 and have developed 100% of our original water conservation plans.
Our culture of innovation is driving us to do more. 3M adheres to the triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profit) and one challenge we face is developing more environmentally friendly products for our customers that are both performance and price competitive.
Our collaborative product development process has spurred the creation of several new technologies. These technologies have been used to develop best-in-class performing products with a sustainability edge. New 3M™ Envision™ Wrap Film 480Cv3 and 3M™ Envision™ Gloss Wrap Overlaminate 8548G are the first high performance wrap films with a sustainability edge; and 3M™ Envision™ Translucent and Diffuser Films are the first graphic films that optimize LED light.
How does SGP fit into 3M’s sustainability journey?
We put just as much effort and commitment into developing high-performing products as we do into creating inspired partnerships. Sustainability for 3M is more than just working to improve our own impact on the environment; it’s also about empowering our customers to achieve their own goals. Partnering with SGP is an excellent means to accomplishing this. SGP can be the catalyst to help print shops take the first step and SGP can continue to help printers reach new goals as the shops make progress in their own sustainability journey.
How has 3M benefited from being early sustainability adopters?
New technologies, new manufacturing methods and a new way of looking at the industry—at 3M sustainability is evolutionary. By remaining passionate about providing a progressive and holistic approach to practices that support economic, social and environmental sustainability for over 70 years, we’ve earned the 12th ranking on Interbrand’s Best Global Green Brands in 2012, as well as winning eight consecutive Sustained Excellence Awards for Energy Management from the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy. Sustainability has been profitable for us too; our Pollution Prevention Pays programs have saved over $1.5 billion.
How have 3M’s customers benefited from its commitment to sustainability?
3M has made a strong commitment to advance our sustainability journey. Our clients can be assured that although we may not have every solution to meet their sustainability needs, we will continue to develop innovative, sustainability solutions – it’s part of our DNA.
We believe innovation is a powerful force for progress. And we want to help ensure our customers’ success in the dynamic environments of visual communications. That’s what drove us to invent tomorrow, today and create the 3M™ Envision™ brand. We think this brand is going to change the industry. It offers leading-edge technology, best-in-class performance and has a distinct sustainability edge.
This gives our customers what they’ve been asking for: more sustainability options that don’t sacrifice performance; and that should help them improve their bottom line as well as help them stay ahead of their competition.
Do you encourage others to take their own sustainability journey, and if so, why?
We believe sustainability is a winning business strategy; and in an industry where innovation is a powerful force for progress, we’re excited to advance and contribute to its success.
We strongly encourage our customers to start their own sustainability journey. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it can help save them money.
Ultimately we think it’s better to prevent pollution than to try to clean it up later. And as with any initiative, it’s important to start with obtainable goals such as recycling office paper, turning off lights and computer monitors when not in use. These actions make a difference and they’ll help build the momentum necessary to tackle larger objectives.