While 3M has created lofty goals that are more inclusive of the community as a whole, they will have to invest in many wholesale changes in order to comply with the concept of an ideal circular economy. The 2005 EPA report gave a much more business-related assessment that showed more realistic and feasible goals from 3M that have shifted to a more buzzword-friendly set of goals in an effort to display inclusivity.
3M is an American company that focuses heavily on technical and marketing solutions along with scientifically successful projects.
Their products range over several different industries and a large portion, roughly 1 out of 3, of their products have been introduced within the last 5 years. In 2005, the EPA submitted a study revolving around 3M’s Environmental Goals and then there was a 2018 Sustainability report revolving around the company’s efforts toward sustainability within the company and the community.
Within the 2005 EPA study, the goals for 3M environmental targets and the Lean Six Sigma methodology were benchmarked and listed.
The 2018 Sustainability report gave results on 3M’s current goals, as well as Sustainability Goals ranging up to 2025 for their 10-year goal. From the 2005 study to the 2018 report, 3M seemed to switch their focus to more of a macro view on the impact of their goals toward a community related list of goals. The EPA study showed that the company was focused on their own wastes and emissions and how they could improve their efficiency within government guidelines, such as the “U.
S. Environmental Protection Agency Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Releases”, to ensure they were in compliance while also finding a way to optimize their business (EPA 3M). Their focus in the 2018 report seemed to shift the focus to a less regulation-based set of goals to a list of easier, more non-technical sounding buzzwords that would appeal to the common customer such as “Health and Safety”, and “Water” (3M Sustainability). This seems to emphasize their mission to appear more concerned with the common citizen than just their business interests.
The changes in goals from 2005 to 2018 seem to revolve more so around involving the community and therefore are more customer-based. This would indicate a shift to a more environmentally focused set of goals in 2018 but this may not entirely be the case. It is entirely possible that as the company does engage in marketing as a specialty, they are using more community inclusive language in an effort to appear more focused on their customers and their well-being. They also mention more than once that the goals are for 2025, indicating that they are not just focused on their current status as a business, but more so on the future of the community and the people that live in it. Phrases such as “Transform the way the world uses energy, the climate impacts everyone”, are a great example of how 3M is using common green buzzwords to appear more active while seemingly giving less statistics and real analysis (3M Sustainability). Mentioning health, safety and education also allude to their focus in marketing to potential customers.
Based on the key concepts of a Circular Economy, the 2018 goals of 3M seem to fit pretty nicely within the principles. By investing in areas such as education and health and safety, the company seems focused on creating many new avenues for potential business that they will be able to profit from. By impacting many different areas, their intention is to build a more efficient world by making changes on a grass-roots systemic level and focusing on recycling not just products but raw materials and even water. One area that 3M can focus on moving forward to comply even more with the core principles of the circular economy would be to focus their buzzword friendly sustainability report principles on the very products they produce. In order to preach the green initiative and a more sustainable world for all of us, 3M needs to begin by leading by example. Finding ways to incorporate products that are fully recyclable would be one area that 3M can begin this venture. Incorporating designed-to-last products that will reduce the amount of raw material necessary to produce the demanded amount of each product is another way to focus on the customer while also decreasing the footprint that 3M’s supply-chain has on the natural world. One of the more important and feasible things that 3M can implement would be more circular design principles that will standardize many of the components that they use in their plethora of products to reduce waste and the need for more raw materials.
While 3M has seemed to shift their focus to more of a community-based unilateral view that involves impacts they can have on the environment globally, there are several areas where the company will need to put their money where their mouth is to live up to their lofty goals. By being less specific, they have created a more inclusive set of goals moving forward while simultaneously involving more people than just the company within. In order to obtain a truly circular economic conglomerate, they will need to invest heavily in innovating not just new products but reinvesting in the reimagination of older products or finding more effective ways to dispose of them.