3M: Leading the Way in Sustainability

3M: Leading the Way in Sustainability
Case Code: CSRS012
Case Length: 16 Pages
Period: 2010-2021
Pub Date: 2023
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.400
Organization: The 3M Company
Industry: Conglomerate
Countries: United States
Themes: Sustainability, Brand Strategy,Corporate Responsibility,Sustainable Innovation
3M: Leading the Way in Sustainability
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts


The Rising Questions About Sustainability

In its long history of innovation, 3M had to face unintended consequences when it created things that were not kind to the environment. Over the years, the company’s firefighting foams and stain-resistant carpet treatments had extensively used fluorosurfactants that continued to persist in the environment, especially in drinking water, and were later found to cause cancer. The company had to face numerous lawsuits over the substance that had a detrimental impact on its bottom line and stock valuation. .

A Sustained Effort to Do Ethical Sourcing

3M took note of the criticism and finally in 2015, it unveiled its updated Pulp and Paper Sourcing Policy. Speaking about the need for a new sourcing policy at 3M, Paglia said, “Consumers are increasingly demanding assurance that the products they buy are produced in way that protect our environment and respect human rights – the kind of transparency and leadership 3M offers in this revised policy represents an important step forward for the industry.” ..

Setting Up New Sustainability Goals

In 2015, 3M announced enhanced sustainability goals for 2025, which included an investment in sustainable materials, ensuring energy efficiency and water management, and doubling its pipeline of diverse leaders. Schueller said, “Our 2025 goals reflect 3M’s commitment to improving our business, our planet and every life. We believe we can make even more progress toward reducing these global barriers as we continue to collaborate with our customers, our communities and others.”..

Stepping Up The Game – Sustainability Value Commitment

In 2019, 3M declared that it would ensure a ‘Sustainability Value Commitment’ (SVC) for all new products. This meant that each of its business groups had to think about how any new product that they were planning to develop “is serving a greater good than previously”, in terms of solving an environmental issue and/or addressing a societal concern..

Building on Circular Economy Principals

As part of its pledge, 3M improved packaging, reviewed what its products were made of and the processes by which the products were manufactured, apart from closely assessing the impact its products had on its customers and broader communities. It strove to make products more durable and to ensure a longer life for them. In addition, the company considered the end of product life..

Enhanced Sustainability Goals Program

In 2019, 3M decided to provide 300,000 work hours of skills-based volunteerism by its employees as its new commitment to the 2025 Sustainability Goals. Consequently, it expanded 3M Impact – a skills-based service program that allowed employees to contribute their business skills, experience, and energy to issues that could bring about a social change. The program was also thought to develop leadership and problem-solving and interpersonal communication skills..

The Road Ahead

In February 2021, The Ethisphere Institute recognized 3M for ‘Ethics and Integrity in Business Conduct and Compliance’ for the eighth straight year. Michael Duran, Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer of 3M, said, “Acting with unwavering integrity is a critical component of 3M’s culture and guides how 3M does business.” In 3M, a workplace environment was created where compliance and ethical business conduct were expected and encouraged by leading through example. It was also believed to be the key reason for 3M’s reputation as an ethical company among consumers and across many industries..


Exhibit I: Information on Business Groups
Exhibit II: Information on the Stakeholders Involved in Sustainability Goal Setting
Exhibit III: Information on Reporting Standards
Exhibit IV: Information on Institutes that were Collaborated with for Product Development Strategy

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