3M

By Melanie Bracey on July 16, 2015

Sustainability is built right into the products of this global innovation company.

3M’s sustainability track record extends from its operations to products with sustainability benefits for health systems.

3M’s sustainability track record extends from its operations to products with sustainability benefits for health systems.

WITH A COMPANY as large as 3M, sustainability isn’t limited to the health care sector, and it’s not a new initiative. The company started its Pollution Prevention Pays program in 1975—an effort for greener manufacturing and end products—and since then, more than 11,000 company-wide pollution prevention projects have helped keep 3.8 billion pounds of pollution out of the environment.

The company has identified five target areas of sustainability: the reduction of waste, energy, greenhouse gases and air emissions as well as water conservation. In health care, 3M’s focus remains on green methods from manufacturing through product delivery, but sustainable customer benefits are also
a priority.

“We have a really diverse portfolio of products and many have a sustainability advantage,” said Ann Peddle Meitz, sustainability director for 3M Health Care. “In the health care space, our solutions can provide a hospital with safer chemical choices as well as help reduce waste, energy and water use.”

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To help health care facilities establish and expand sustainable practices, 3M offers a variety of products that support its sustainability target areas. For example, in recent years, 3M has removed lead—a hazardous waste that is costly  to dispose of—from its products, including  Comply brand steam indicator tape and Bowie-Dick test packs. It is also working toward making all of its products phthalate free, including Ranger brand blood and fluid-warming products and the Littmann brand stethoscope. Also, patient warming blankets that are up to 117 percent lighter than competitors’ cut down on the per-pound cost that a health care facility could incur during waste removal.

On the energy use side, 3M offers several green building solutions that can reduce air conditioning costs and slow furniture wear. 3M even has products that save up to 40 percent on heating costs and 25 percent on cooling costs during a facility’s construction phase. And to help save water, 3M was the first company to develop a waterless surgical handscrub that is FDA-NDA approved, and its Easy Scrub brand mops require less water and fewer cleaning chemicals, by up to 80 percent overall.

With sustainability efforts on such a grand scale, 3M places a high priority on having dedicated teams to disseminate and put these values into practice. At the helm of its efforts is the Sustainability Center of Excellence, which works to bring together the different divisions within the company, including operations and sustainability development. Each business group, including health care, has a point person to “help people understand the rationale behind corporate initiatives like sustainability and help them to really understand how their role in the company supports that greater effort,” said John Cornwell, global communications leader for 3M Health Care Business Group. Helping people internally and externally understand the benefits of sustainable practices is a crucial part of supply chain management.

“In the health care space, our solutions can provide a hospital with safer chemical choices as well as help reduce waste, energy and water use.”—Ann Peddle Meitz, sustainability director for 3M Health Care

The company also supports sustainability efforts in the community, donating $80 million in 2014 to education, community and environmental programs, which makes a total of $1.4 billion contributed since 1953. In recognition of its efforts in sustainable business practices, 3M has made the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 15 consecutive years.

3M’s 2015 Sustainability Report is now available, and the outlook is positive. The goals for the next 10 years are included and feature specific water preservation and renewable energy goals with a continued and expanded focus on sustainability education initiatives. According to Meitz, “Sustainability is really part of the fabric of the company.”

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