Green Spot: 3P at 3M

April 15, 2008
Old-line manufacturer mixes old-school approach and progressive policies to "green" initiatives.

The market benefit of sustainable manufacturing makes for a constant temptation for the "green talk" to outpace the "green walk." To combat this inevitable tendency, manufacturers like Minnesota's 3M make sure that its successes must pass muster with tough, in-house environmental marketing watchdog groups that serve as "anti-greenwashing" resources, ensuring that any claim staked can be backed up by solid data. Keith Miller is the manager of 3M Environmental Health and Safety at 3M, and was generous enough to pass on some of this internally vetted information -- including a description of 3M's billion-dollar-saving 3P program -- to the IW readership.

Company Programs

IW: How are you addressing energy efficiency?

Miller: Our energy efficiency efforts date back to 1973, when we formed the 3M Energy Management Department. Improvements result from employee programs that increase energy efficiency of existing operations, new equipment and facilities designed to be energy efficient, and the development of new, more energy efficient 3M products and processes. Our new product development teams work to improve the energy efficiency of 3M products using Life Cycle Management. The teams consider energy efficiency in their choices of raw materials, product formulations and manufacturing processes.

To drive continuous improvement in energy management, we set a goal to improve energy efficiency by 20% from 2005-2010. This goal is on top of previous energy efficiency efforts, which have achieved 80 percent improvement in energy efficiency at 3M's U.S. operations since 1973 and 37 percent improvement in energy efficiency at 3M's operations worldwide since 1998.

During 2006, 3M reduced energy use by 11 percent from its 2005 base year and achieved annual energy savings of $25.6 million by means of 278 employee-inspired projects. We continue to adopt new methods to improve energy-efficiency, including the use of alternative, renewable energy.

So far, 3M has achieved:

  • 80 percent improvement in energy efficiency at our U.S. operations since 1973.
  • 37 percent improvement in energy efficiency at our operations worldwide since 1998.
  • 11 percent improvement in energy efficiency from 2005-2006.

Our Brookings, S.D. facility recently replaced its existing fume incinerator with a highly energy efficient regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) connected to a heat recovery steam generator. The Brookings plant now captures and destroys an additional 1.3 million lbs of solvent vapor per year. Natural gas consumption, both to destroy the solvent emissions and to generate plant steam, has been reduced by approximately 220,0000,000 BTUs/yr, an 84% reduction. This directly results in 11,684 prevented tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

A pollution prevention team from 3M Poland's Wroclaw facility reduced natural gas use and greenhouse gas emissions by improving heating efficiency throughout the Wroclaw facility. The team reduced natural gas use by more than 5,000 Btus annually by implementing the following improvements to the facility's heating program: reducing heating in storage areas, upgrading steam driven equipment, and upgrading the heating system controls so that it is possible to better regulate heat throughout the facility and avoid unnecessary heating. Together, these changes not only reduced the facility's energy footprint, but will save 3M Poland over $50,000 annually.

IW: Have you evaluated alternative, renewable production or purchase?

Miller: One way 3M is working to manage its greenhouse gas emissions impact is by purchasing and installing on-site renewable energy.

In 2006, for example, we entered into a new agreement to purchase livestock-derived methane for our Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin plant. The plant expects to get 11% of its energy use from this renewable source offsetting approximately 1,908 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2006, 3M's Perth, Canada plant began installing a 2,000 square foot solar wall on the south side of the warehouse. The solar wall is expected to displace 329 million Btu's of electricity for the site each year. The new wall will both preheat the air and reduce the building transmission loss.

IW: How are you addressing facilities and equipment management?

Miller: 3M has an Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Management System for our facilities, business units and subsidiaries globally. The system was developed to identify EHS issues impacting our facilities and businesses, to develop action plans to address the priority issues, implement the action plans, track progress on the action plans through regular reviews and audit the system. The key to the EHS Management System is raising EHS issues at the business unit and subsidiary level where we can provide more proactive management.

Within this EHS Management System, an EHS Scorecard helps track our progress. This is done at the facility, division/subsidiary and corporate levels. In the EHS Scorecard, eco-efficiency metrics cover the critical environmental performance aspects of our operations. For some of these environmental metrics, we have set targets to drive continuous environmental improvements. In addition, the scorecard includes safety and health metrics.

Furthermore, employees contributing toward 3M's goal to reduce our environmental footprint and/or improve employee safety and health are acknowledged through employee recognition programs.

3M also collects and analyzes energy-use data and energy efficiency project metrics to track progress towards corporate goals, to identify opportunities for improvement and to benchmark facilities and division against their past performance.

All 3M manufacturing locations and other locations with more than 30,000 square feet of space are required to report energy use and energy costs to 3M Energy Management on a monthly basis. The data is used to drive progress toward our corporate energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals and to drive energy efficiency improvements. The data is gathered at the division and corporate levels and used as part of 3M's EHS scorecards. Facilities and divisions receive quarterly scorecards evaluating their progress towards 3M's reduction goals.

IW: How are you addressing waste reduction?

Miller: Waste minimization is our most important strategy for reducing environmental releases. Waste is mostly unused raw materials. The purchase of raw materials for manufacturing 3M products is a significant expense. So wasted raw materials (waste generation) is a financial, as well as an environmental issue.


  • 33 percent reduction in waste indexed to net sales in 2006 from a 2000 base year.
  • 57 percent reduction in waste indexed to net sales in 2006 from a 1990 base year.

In 2005, we set a new goal to reduce waste indexed to net sales in 2010 by 20% from a 2005 base year. Along with setting a new goal, we also revised our definition of waste for the purpose of tracking progress towards this goal. Under the new definition, we consider materials recycled outside 3M to be waste. While recycling will remain an important mechanism for us to reduce our environmental footprint, preventing the generation of waste in the first place is a more sustainable approach. In addition, opportunities for reducing solid waste are limited by a deteriorating market for recycled raw materials. Our future progress will rely primarily on pollution prevention, design changes in products and process, and on internal recycling/reuse programs. These take longer to accomplish, but can have more impact. Waste reductions mentioned in this report do not include recycled materials to be waste.

IW: How are you addressing pollution prevention?

Miller: Over the last 32 years, our Pollution Prevention Pays (3P) program has prevented more than 2.6 billion pounds of pollutants and saved more than $1 billion based on aggregated data from the first year of each 3P project.

The 3P program helps prevent pollution at the source (in products and manufacturing processes) rather than removing it after it has been created. When 3P was launched in 1975, the concept of applying pollution prevention on a companywide basis and documenting the results was an industry first.

The 3P program is a key element of our environmental strategy and in moving toward sustainability. 3P has achieved that status based on our belief that a prevention approach is more environmentally effective, technically sound and economical than conventional pollution controls. Natural resources, energy and money are used to build conventional pollution controls, and more resources are consumed operating them. Conventional control only constrains the problem temporarily; it does not eliminate the problem. 3P seeks to eliminate pollution at the source through:

  • Product reformulation.
  • Process modification.
  • Equipment redesign.
  • Recycling and reuse of waste materials.
  • 3M employees worldwide have completed more than 6,300 3P projects.

In 2005, a 3P team from 3M Brazil's Itapetininga facility replaced the solvent-based paper treatment process the plant used to manufacture packaging, medical and masking tapes with a new, water-based process. As a result of this change, the facility reduced solvent emissions by over 45 tons per year. By preventing solvent emissions at the source, the plant also eliminated the need for pollution control equipment, reducing the plant's energy use and eliminating over 125 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. The project is expected to save the Itapetininga facility more than $850,000 in its first year of implementation.

Our Cottage Grove, Minn. facility developed a collapsible, reusable steel crate that reduces waste and saves money. Prior to the development of this 3P project, all shipments of automotive products to Germany went in a multi-piece wooden crate. When received in Germany, the automotive products were removed from the crate, which was thrown away. An employee team looked at many alternatives to reduce waste from these shipments and soon settled on the idea of using returnable packaging. After developing concepts, the team worked with a contractor to build prototypes for testing. The final design had to be robust to hold 1,800 pounds of product, double stacked in a shipping container. As a result, the new crates are made of steel and collapse to one-third of their height for the return trip to the U.S. The team's work eliminated 315 tons of solid waste and produced $101,800 savings in the first year alone.

IW: How are you addressing supply chain management?

Miller: Our Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Management System promotes sound environmental management at our facilities worldwide. It helps us address changing customer needs and expectations as we continue to drive sustainable growth. The EHS Management System:

  • Builds on the strengths of our previous environmental, health and safety efforts.
  • Includes an integrated, holistic system that anticipates and addresses long-term issues and drives continuous improvement.
  • Promotes a strategic planning process that integrates EHS issues into business unit strategic plans.
  • Requires each business unit to identity EHS issues, develop formal action plans, set goals and measure results.
  • Requires a Life Cycle Management review of all new products and of existing products on a prioritized basis.

As a result of good planning and priority setting, resources can be efficiently allocated to maximize EHS improvement.

In addition, we recently instituted a more formal process as part of our Sourcing Policy that sets standards for our suppliers in the areas of environmental, health and safety, transportation and labor and human resources. The new standards apply to the selection and retention of all suppliers that provide goods or services to 3M worldwide and establish a framework that we at 3M consider important to a safe and healthy workplace, to the maintenance of fair and reasonable labor and human resource practices, and to the management of manufacturing and distribution operations to minimize adverse impact to the environment. Our program integrates several assessment tools, and we have embarked on a program to assess key suppliers using these tools. We continue to explore ways to improve our supplier management program.

IW: Out of all these, which is your company's priority?

Miller: There isn't just one priority. At 3M, we have a number of key objectives around sustainable development.

Each year, we continue to move toward sustainability and strive to raise the bar on corporate environmental, social and economic management. In order to ensure continuous improvement, we annually re-evaluate and/or identify new key sustainability objectives for the company. These key issues are identified through our management systems such as ISO 14001, Six Sigma methodology, and feedback from our stakeholders. A few of our key objectives around sustainable development include:

  • Reducing our environmental footprint.
  • Assuring our products are safe for their intended use through their entire life cycle.
  • Assuring the appropriate management of any 3M health and safety issues that may touch customers, neighbors and the public.
  • Maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.
  • Satisfying our customers with superior quality and value.
  • Providing a supportive, flexible work environment.
  • Supporting local needs and education in communities where our employees live and work.

IW: Are there any NGO partnerships/government programs you participate in?

Miller: Collaborations are an important part of our sustainability strategy. We team with a variety of organizations to provide a diverse set of viewpoints on sustainability, a better understanding of the positions of 3M stakeholders, and a mechanism to learn from the successes and failures of peers.

In 2007, we joined the Clinton Climate Initiative's landmark global procurement agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by making energy savings technologies affordable and accessible to cities around the world. We will sell our energy-saving window film to 40 of the world's largest cities (C40) at greater volumes and reduced costs, helping to cut back on energy and associated carbon dioxide emission from their buildings.

Listed is a sampling of collaborations:

  • Federal Office of Health (Switzerland)
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency's (U.S. EPA) Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (charter member)
  • Air & Waste Management Association
  • Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
  • The Global Environmental Management Initiative
  • The World Business Council for Sustainable Development

IW: Have your programs received executive sponsorship from the C-suite?

Miller: Yes. 3M Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, George Buckley, stated:

Over the next few years we will continue to build on our world-leading progress by reducing volatile air emissions by an additional 25 percent, improving energy efficiency by 20 percent, and reducing waste by 20 percent. In addition, we will continue to address global climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. As a company, we have already exceeded our goal to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from a 1990 base year.

IW: Have you seen impetus for these types of initiatives from the shop floor?

Miller: Our Pollution Prevention Pays (3P) program, for example, touches the lives of all employees. The program relies on the voluntary participation of employees, who are encouraged to submit ideas.

Worldwide, our employees have completed more than 6,300 3P projects, helping prevent more than 2.6 billion pounds of pollutants and saving more than $1 billion based aggregated data from the first year of each 3P project.

At 3M, we also encourage each facility to have an energy champion and an energy team. 3M Energy Management works with the energy champions and teams to ensure that new equipment and facilities are designed to be energy efficient.

IW: How do you see sustainability fitting into core business strategy?

Miller: Our commitment is to actively contribute to sustainable development through environmental protection, social responsibility and economic progress. That means meeting the needs of society today, while respecting the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Our sustainability policies and practices are directly linked to our fundamental corporate values:

  • Act with uncompromising honesty and integrity in everything we do.
  • Satisfy our customers with innovative technology and superior quality, value and service.
  • Provide our investors an attractive return through sustainable, global growth.
  • Respect our social and physical environment around the world.
  • Value and develop our employees' diverse talents, initiative and leadership
  • Earn the admiration of all those associated with 3M worldwide.

Our strategies for sustainability encompass the pursuit of customer satisfaction and commercial success within a framework of environmental, social and economic values.

Strategies for meeting society's and 3M's expectations for environmental improvement include:

  • Utilizing our Environmental, Health and Safety Management System to help 3M and our business units identify key issues and long-term solutions.
  • Utilizing Life Cycle Management to continuously improve the environmental, health and safety impact of our products and processes.
  • Making pollution prevention pay through development of new technologies and products.
  • Setting aggressive environmental goals and meeting them.

Strategies for meeting employee and community needs as a socially responsible company include:

  • Attracting and retaining a diverse and talented work force and sustaining a workplace where individual initiative is rewarded, employee health and safety is safeguarded, and innovation is a way of life.
  • Supporting continuous learning and knowledge-sharing to increase personal satisfaction, organizational effectiveness and business results.
  • Supporting communities where we operate; providing jobs for local residents; and supporting education, the environment, social and economic development.

IW: How, if at all, do you see the regulatory environment changing, and how will it impact your business?

Miller: Our EHS management regularly tracks and manages regulatory issues. Many times, we are even more aggressive on change and issues than what is mandated. Our goal is to be 100% compliant with all laws and regulations that impact our business. This applies to wherever we operate. In the environmental area, this can create a complex matrix of local, regional and national regulations. As a company, we have adopted management systems and resources to meet this complex web of global laws.

IW: How about the environment itself -- is climate change being factored into risk models?

Miller: Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions are a priority for us. Although the science of global climate change is evolving, we are taking voluntary, responsible action to reduce GHG emissions. We set a goal to reduce our worldwide GHG emissions by 50% (from a 1990 base year). In addition, we are partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Climate Leaders program to reduce our U.S. GHG emissions by 30% percent by 2007 (from a 2002 base year).

The emission-reduction goals include both Kyoto and non-Kyoto gases and are being accomplished through manufacturing process improvements, energy conservation and additional pollution control equipment.

In tracking our progress towards our GHG goals, we have developed a worldwide GHG inventory and have received third-party verification of this inventory.

We have achieved these results:

  • We reduced worldwide, absolute GHG emissions in 2006 by 54% from a 1990 base year.
  • We reduced U.S., absolute GHG emissions, in 2006, by 50% from a 2002 base year.
  • In 2005, we exceeded our goal to reduce energy use indexed to net sales by 20% off a 2000 base year, reducing energy use by 29%.
  • We reduced worldwide energy use at our operations by 37 percent from 1998-2006.
  • We reduced U.S. energy use at our operations by 80 percent from 1973-2006.

IW: How important is corporate branding in this day and age?

Miller: Powerful corporate brands stand for trust, leadership and quality. The globalization of markets, explosion in communications media and rapidly growing economies in Asia are making strong corporate brands an imperative for global companies.

A strong corporate brand is a powerful asset for recruiting and retaining employees, developing customer and vendor relationships or working with governments. Corporate brands that credibly are known for environment sustainability will have an advantage.

At 3M, we have a long history of commitment to innovative sustainability, with dedication from the top down. We are recognized as a leader in sustainability practices, globally. We are committed to long-term sustainability through investment in innovation, science and people. Our culture is driven by our corporate values, and those values emphasize behavior that reinforces environmental sustainability.

IW: And how are you publicizing your efforts to reach out to value chain partners and consumers?

Miller: Our efforts are publicized on the 3M website, through media relations, as well as through:

  • The Environmental Solutions catalog, which showcases 3M products designed to address environmental challenges for customers in markets ranging from cleaning and maintenance, construction and industrial production to communications, office supplies, transportation and health care. The catalog can be viewed at
  • Award nominations, such as the 2008 Energy Star Partner of the Year Award. We also nominated Dr. Joe Ling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Excellence Thomas W. Zosel Outstanding Individual Achievement Award. The award recognizes individuals for outstanding achievement, demonstrated leadership, and a lasting commitment to promoting clean air and helping to achieve better air quality.

Big Picture

IW: What are you the most proud of that you've accomplished so far, and why?

Miller: We are proud of our long history and tradition of continuous improvement. Our sustainability efforts were kicked off in 1975 with the Pollution Prevention Pays (3P) program. The term "pollution prevention" had been around for years, but we were one of the first to make it an integral part of how the company does business around the world.

Dr. Joseph Ling, the father of our 3P program, led the way for our environmental efforts. Dr. Ling was one of the first to stress a holistic approach to environmental management examining impacts to air, water and land, together. He is globally recognized as the father of pollution prevention -- the idea that preventing the generation of pollution is more environmentally effective, technically sound and economical than controlling it after it has been emitted.

Through his work with 3M and 3P, Dr. Ling has been instrumental in spreading the concept of pollution prevention across the globe. The pioneering 3P program has been imitated by many companies over the years.

We are also proud of the recognition that 3M has received in recent years. We were named Energy Star Partner of the Year in 2004 and were recognized again in 2005, 2006 and 2007 with the Energy Star Sustained Excellence Award for demonstrating continued leadership in energy management.

3M United Kingdom gained accreditation under the Energy Efficiency Accreditation Scheme, a British national benchmark standard in energy efficiency. The company received the award for demonstrating management commitment to energy efficiency, actual investments in energy efficiency measures, and a record of progressive improvement in energy efficiency.

In recognition of our commitment to sustainability, 3M has been selected for inclusion in the 2007-2008 Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) that tracks the performance of the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide. In addition, we were selected as the sector leader among diversified industrial companies.

For more features like this, see Green Spot: Best Practices in Sustainable Manufacturing.

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