3M is an American multinational conglomerate located in Minnesota. 3M is responsible for over 55,000 different products, including abrasives, adhesives, laminates, dental products, passive fire protection, medical products, electronic materials, car care products, optical films and electronic circuits. With operations in over 60 countries, 3M products are available in over 300 countries. Some of the more popular products include the Post-it note, Scotch Tape, Scotchgard, and Thinsulate, Scotch-Brite. 3M has been very instrumental in the clean technology industry.
1 ) 3M Creates Renewable Energy Division. In 2009, 3M announced the creation of its Renewable Energy Division. Within it, there will be two distinct divisions – energy generation and energy management. Energy generation will work toward the development of materials to be used for geothermal, solar, wind and biofuels solutions, including coatings, tapes, films, and sealants and adhesives. The energy management division maintains focus on thermal efficiencies, energy storage device membranes, and numerous other applications used for residential, commercial building and automotive markets.
2 ) 3M Signs Renewable Energy Research Agreement with NREL. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, part of the United States Department of Energy, announced a number of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with 3M. This collaboration looks to demonstrate both bodies’ commitment to meeting America’s clean energy needs through the development of different technologies that are essential to the production of large-scale sources of new renewable energies at lower costs. The three main areas of innovation include biofuels, thin-film photovoltaics and concentrating solar power. “3M is excited for the opportunity to tap into NREL’s expertise and understanding of a variety of solar modules and the interplay between the materials and systems,” said Mike Roman, general manager and vice president of 3M Renewable Energy Division. “Also, NREL has pilot plant capabilities, which allow valuable application testing of 3M’s biofuel distillation technologies in a controllable and scalable environment.”
3 ) 3M Cool Roofing Granules is a recent 3M innovation that looks to be an energy efficient breakthrough for roofing granule technology. The Cool Roofing Granules keep a home much cooler using less energy consumption, thereby lowering total energy costs. This is because Cool Roofing Granules are up to four times more reflective than any comparative conventional colored granules. Having a cooler roof means having a lower electricity bill due to less energy consumption. The Cool Roofing Granules meet all Energy Star requirements, making them a primary choice for green building.
4 ) The 3P Pollution Policy also known as the “Pollution Prevention Pays Initiative,” was started in 1975. Since its establishment, the 3P initiative has assisted in eliminating more than three billion pounds of pollution and saved 3M more than $1 billion. The policy is “based on the belief that a preventative approach is more effective, technically sound, and economical that conventional pollution controls. Building conventional controls require natural resources, human energy, and money; operating them requires even more.” The 3P initiative is different because it decreases overall resource consumption by preventing the creation of pollution right up front, via product reformulation, equipment redesign, process modification and waste material recycling and reuse. Projects include redesigning adhesive electrodes, preventing solvent emissions coming from the source, and improving environmental footprint.
5 ) Managing Waste. To 3M, minimizing waste is an essential strategy to lowering carbon footprints. At the Irvine, California facility that manufactures dental products, as part of its overall operation, the facility generates platinum catalyst waste. They turn the waste into raw materials via a recycler to recover as well as process waste so it can be reused. This has saved the plant over $100,000. 3M’s German and Japan facilities have eliminated all landfill waste through reuse, recycling, conversion to energy or incinerated.
6 ) Biodiversity. As part of their goal to preserve and enhance biodiversity, 3M has donated over $10 million to The Nature Conservancy to safeguard critical biodiversity and habitat throughout the United States, China, Mexico and Brazil. 3M has also worked alongside with Conservation International to assist in protection endangered wildlife species and restore threatened forests throughout China.
7 ) Climate Change. For 3M, reducing their total carbon dioxide emissions level is very important. Since 2005, 3M has saved over $100 million in energy costs simply by implementing a number of projects that improve energy efficiency. In their Brooking, South Dakota plant, 3M replaced the fume incinerator with a more efficient technology to control pollution, further reducing carbon dioxide emissions by over 11,000 tons. 3M has also invested in alternative energy sources. For example, its Austin, Texas facility has 13 percent of its energy coming from the wind.
8 ) Water Stewardship. 3M is always looking for new ways to cut their total water use and prevent water pollution in any way that the company is able to. In the Sumare, Brazil facility, the employees in 2007 implemented a new project to reduce total water use by almost 16 million gallons, saving $200,000 per year by using a process of reverse osmosis to treat and then reuse water. The 3M facility in Bangalore treats all its wastewater on-site, thereby reducing the facility’s utilization of water by 1.5 million gallons per year, also cutting their water bill by almost half.
9 ) Air Emissions. One of the main priorities at 3M is reducing volatile organic air emissions. Since 1990, 3M has been able to reduce the total amount of air emissions by 95 percent. The factory in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, for example, uses coating reformulations and equipment modifications to cut the amount of VOCs and other harmful air emissions by approximately 90 percent. This saves more than 500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
10 ) Packaging. 3M has realized the cost and environmental benefits of reducing the packaging associated with all their products. Through the redesign, reuse, and increased recyclability of their packaging, along with using already recycled materials, 3M is reducing their environmental impact. The results of less packaging include less energy utilized in processing packaging materials, a decrease in the cost and emissions stemming from transportation, and less storage required.
Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.