NOT CURRENT YEAR
3M raises its overall score from nine to ten compared to last year, and climbs the ranking from place 42 to 38. The company has decreased its number of persistent chemicals from seven to five. Still, 3M has 43 hazardous chemicals in its product portfolio – a high number, especially for a consumer-oriented company. In addition, the transparency is relatively low, since information on chemical content is only available for the 35 percent of 3M’s production that is sold in the EU and US markets. The company scores poorly in three out of four categories, mainly due to its hazardous portfolio, use of persistent chemicals, and the number and scope of controversies over the past ten years. Development of Safer Chemicals is the one category where 3M scores on an average level, due to the company performing environmental sustainability assessments – including hazard screenings – of its products, marketing safer alternatives, and imposing a “Sustainability Value Commitment” on new products since 2019.
Opportunities for improvement
- Map and phase out persistent chemicals
3M produces five persistent chemicals. These substances are also known as “forever chemicals” due to the fact that they do not break down in nature. Instead, these chemicals — which are linked to many negative health effects — build up over time. The consequences of these substances are becoming increasingly detrimental, not only for human health and the environment but also for investors. Investors risk stranded assets now that the regulatory speed is accelerating, and are also exposed to significant liability risks since more chemical companies are being sued for contamination. 3M should therefore make sure to identify all uses, and publish volumes and percentage of total revenue of its persistent substances. The company should also publish a time-bound phase-out plan of each persistent chemical and an annual progression report to go with it.
- Reduce hazardous portfolio
Scientists agree that chemical pollution has crossed a planetary boundary and become an urgent global problem. This threatens the stability of global ecosystems upon which humanity depends, by damaging the biological and physical processes that underpin all life. Since 3M has 43 hazardous chemicals in its production portfolio, a paramount improvement point for the company is to reduce this number. 3M should therefore make sure to identify all uses, and publish volumes and percentage of total revenue of its hazardous substances. 3M should also publish a reduction road map of each hazardous chemical and an annual progression report. If the company continues to produce any hazardous substance, it needs to present a rationale for its essential use, motivate the production volume and state how much money it spends on research and development to find a safer alternative.
- Prevent further controversies
3M has been involved in incidents leading to liabilities of over 10 million USD and should re-design or dramatically improve its Environment, Health and Safety strategy. This would help the company better avoid incidents and make sure controls are in place that would function even when human errors occur. If an accident or spill should happen, it is important that 3M identifies the causes and publishes a document on strategies that will be implemented to avoid similar occurrences in the future. Human suffering and environmental pollution are possible to prevent in the production of chemicals, but demands a thorough Environment, Health and Safety system.