Sustainability matters: how we’re using science and collaboration to support a brighter future.

September 18, 2020 Richard Chartrand

Young boy sitting in a garden looking up at plants.

It is a pivotal time for our planet.

With growing populations, urbanization, climate change, and generational shifts, it has become increasingly important to make changes today that will positively affect the future.

For many years, I have helped others find ways to lead more sustainable lives. From purchasing recyclable products with less packaging to getting involved in my community, I am committed to taking personal action for change.

As 3M Canada’s Sustainability Leader, I apply what I have learned over the years to help our organisation and customers become more environmentally and socially responsible. I am proud to be a part of a company that uses science and problem-solving to develop energy-efficient manufacturing processes, design recyclable and reusable products, and help reduce our customers’ environmental footprint.

Why sustainability matters.

Sustainability is the ability of a person or organisation to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations, 1974).1

For businesses, it involves considering “people, planet, and profit” – often described as the “triple bottom line.”By aligning environmental and social performance with financial performance, companies can ensure that they thrive now and in the future.

In our personal lives, sustainable living is creating an entirely new way of thinking about how we use and interact with the environment and other people. This could include using less energy at home by installing solar panels, buying recyclable or compostable goods, or carpooling to work.

At the same time, we must create conditions where all people can thrive and focus on supporting our communities. This includes ensuring every person can meet their basic needs, such as having access to food, clean water, education, and employment.

How 3M is using science to create lasting change.

In consultation with customers, partners, and academic experts, we have created a comprehensive strategy and we are actively pursuing sustainability-inspired innovation. This will help us achieve our own goals and address our customers’ concerns about waste, ethical sourcing, plastic, and packaging.

In 2015, 3M set 14 corporate targets to achieve by 2025 (with one more added in 2019). These 15 goals represent ambitious targets in our operations related to raw materials, water, waste, energy, education, and safety. Our goals align with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.3 Of these 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), our focus is on helping to build sustainable communities, mitigate climate change, and create sustainable products so that our planet can support people and animals. In 2018, we also introduced a Sustainability Framework, which includes new areas such as renewable energy, diversity, and an external focus on helping our community and customers be more sustainable.

Our commitment to a more environmentally friendly future also includes a dedicated focus on three key areas, and we are already seeing results in each. These are:

  • Creating a circular economy. We’re committed to designing solutions that do more with less material to advance a global circular economy. This model focuses on production that continually reuses resources, taking ‘waste’ from one factory or process and using it as ‘food’ for another factory or process. To help implement this, we initiated our Sustainability Value Commitment in 2019, which requires every new 3M product to be manufactured responsibly and consider the use of renewable resources.3

The Scotch-Brite® Heavy Duty Scrub Sponge is an example of this commitment put into action. The green fibres on the sponge are made from 100% recycled content.3 Solutions such as this have allowed us to decrease manufacturing waste by 12% and helped our customers do more with fewer materials.3

  • Battling climate change. We are innovating to decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and accelerate global climate solutions. This involves establishing a strategic energy management program to improve energy use and make changes to our manufacturing processes. Since 2015, 3M has reduced GHG emissions by 68% and increased renewable energy by 25%.3 3M Canada, headquartered in London, Ontario, has seen an 18% increase in energy efficiency, and we’re aiming to have our entire global operations on 100% renewable power by 2050.3,4
  • Helping our community. We are committed to building sustainable communities and helping growing populations live well through strategic investments and the involvement of 3M businesses, sites, and employees worldwide. As a part of our global 3M Impact program, employees travel to communities around the world to work on-site with local nonprofit organisations for two weeks. In 2019, 20,600 skills-based work hours were donated through 3M Impact activities. Also, through our corporate philanthropy program, 3Mgives, 3M Canada has partnered with Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF) to help students and teachers across Canada address the 17 UN Sustainable Development goals in the classroom, extracurriculars, and school facilities. 3Mgives is also working with Carolinian Canada to turn 230 acres of land into natural landscapes that support the health of people, plants, and animals. With initiatives like these, we are tackling climate change and critical environmental issues in 3M communities.

It is our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure that future generations live well. I am proud that sustainability is a priority at 3M and I believe that our focus on these key areas will make a lasting difference both today and tomorrow.

Learn how you can make a difference.

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  1. Brundtland Report. Available for download at:
  2. Elkington, J. 1994. “Towards the Sustainable Corporation: Win-Win-Win Business Strategies for Sustainable Development,” in California Management Review 36(2): 90-100.
  3. 3M 2020 Sustainability Report.
  4. 3M data on file.

About the Author

Richard Chartrand

[enBio=Richard began his career at 3M Canada in 1989 and has worked in several executive positions in graphics, industrial, safety, and energy business groups. He has also gained international experience through an assignment in Austin, Texas. Richard has more than 30 years of business experience, driving application development and new product commercialization, with a strong customer-focused attitude and disciplined execution. He is a results-oriented leader, a noted collaborative consensus builder, and a transparent problem-solver. Richard currently leads the US and Canada Research and Development Operations team and Canada Sustainability strategy to drive local investments and services and to support a unified global strategy to best serve 3M’s customers.],[enJob=Director, USAC Research and Development Operations and Canada Sustainability Leader, 3M Canada],[frBio=Richard a commencé à travailler à 3M Canada en 1989 et a occupé plusieurs postes de direction dans les groupes d’affaires industriels, en graphismes, en sécurité et en énergie. Il a également acquis une expérience internationale grâce à une affectation à Austin au Texas. Richard compte donc plus de 30 ans d’expérience dans le domaine des affaires et gère l’élaboration d’applications et la commercialisation de nouveaux produits avec une forte attitude axée sur le client et une exécution disciplinée. Il est un dirigeant axé sur les résultats, un homme de consensus reconnu et une personne qui résout les problèmes de manière transparente. Richard dirige actuellement l’équipe des activités de recherche et développement aux États-Unis et au Canada ainsi que la stratégie en matière de développement durable au Canada pour stimuler les investissements et les services locaux, et soutenir une stratégie mondiale unifiée afin de mieux servir les clients de 3M. ],[frJob=Directeur général, leader des activités en recherche et développement États-Unis-Canada et du développement durable au Canada, 3M Canada]

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