3M’s four business groups set new equity commitments
Nov 2, 2021

To drive greater equity in our communities, 3M has set new equity-related commitments within each of our four business groups. The commitments will leverage the power of each groups’ people, products, philanthropy and partnerships. 

“Our CEO challenged us to leverage the full capabilities as a company to solve pressing social needs in our society that we are uniquely equipped to address,” said Garfield Bowen, vice president of social justice strategy & initiatives at 3M. “We took that challenge and have created a model to help make a difference in communities where we have a presence.”   

The effort was created through the close collaboration of 3M’s Social Justice team, 3M’s Community Coalition and each business group’s social justice engagement leader. Each equity commitment is uniquely ownable for the business group, bold, measurable, globally scalable and aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

 “3M has expertise in science and technology, and our Community Coalition partners have valuable insights about how we can apply our resources and capabilities to contribute to long-term change,” said Jane Hannon, social justice manager at 3M. “Thanks to input from these leaders, we’ve come to think about our efforts like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For a student to benefit from a STEM education initiative, they need an environment that makes learning possible – a place to live, access to nutritious food, good health care, and safe and reliable transportation to and from school. The interplay of these focus areas will address inequitable systems from multiple angles, simultaneously.”  

Here’s how each of 3M’s four business groups are stepping up now and in the years to come.   

Health Care Business Group (HCBG) addresses health care equity   

HCBG will work toward health equity and health care access by addressing health care disparities for historically marginalized communities. That work will be guided by social determinants of health, which are the conditions in places where people live, learn, work and play that affect their health and quality of life.  

“We at 3M Health Care are leveraging the skills of our employees and 3M’s core competencies to help advance health equity locally and globally to drive sustainable change,” said Anila Prabhu, vice president of sustainability and social justice engagement leader for HCBG.   

To address health care disparities and help more people get the resources they need to thrive, HCBG is partnering with community-based organizations and academic institutions.  

One recent example took place in the winter 2020 when 3M Government Affairs, Oral Care and HCBG partnered with a Minnesota coalition of 12 dental organizations and dental safety net clinics. This group – who collectively call themselves “Get to Yes” after a concept coined by the Harvard Negotiation Project and a book of the same name – sought to increase access to critical oral health services for marginalized Minnesotans. 

The 3M team helped guide Get to Yes through a public policy playbook and worked with the group to prepare a whitepaper and a series of highly customized legislative communications.  

The result: Get to Yes secured a $61 million increase in funding from the state legislature for Minnesotans on Medicaid. Per Medicaid policy, the federal government matches state costs with federal dollars, which will further increase funding. This work will help hundreds of thousands of historically marginalized Minnesotans gain access to critically needed dental care. 

Consumer Business Group (CBG) increases access to homeownership   

CBG will work to address the homeownership gap by partnering with organizations that increase ownership access for underrepresented groups and through meaningful product innovation that makes a house a home.   

To support this goal, CBG is elevating its long-time partnership with Habitat for Humanity. When CBG asked how they could show up with support, it wasn’t funding, product donations or volunteering that topped the list. Instead, Habitat for Humanity asked for help evaluating their own processes and measures of success with the goal of removing barriers that could prevent people, especially Black families, from entering the homeownership pipeline.  

“This was not us coming in and pretending to be an expert on housing inequity. It was us bringing in our capabilities with consumer journey mapping and business processes to enable Habitat on their journey,” said Danielle Schreppel, CBG engagement leader for social justice and portfolio manager for 3M’s Construction & Home Improvement Markets Division.  

Transportation & Electronics Business Group (TEBG) supports urban safety and mobility   

TEBG will work to improve urban safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers by enhancing visibility and signage in select city centers to bring families home safely. Transportation equity is about making sure everyone has access to safe, affordable and sustainable transportation options and is crucial to accessing health care, jobs, education and services. 

School zone safety has long been a central focus for TEBG, which produces pavement marking tapes and signage that make school-zone crossings clearer. 3M has created attention-grabbing fluorescent yellow-green school crossing signs that are used around the world.  

“Education is an essential part of equity, and for many it represents a path to a better life,” said Thad Radel, global marketing operations and strategy manager for 3M’s Transportation Safety Division. “We can help by making sure every student has a safe route to school.”  

Road safety studies and traffic accident statistics are helping TEBG identify communities around the world – from the U.S.  to India to Vietnam – where underrepresented and under-resourced student populations are disproportionately at risk. TEBG will partner with schools to support infrastructure improvements and train students on traffic safety.   

Recently in St. Paul, Minnesota, TEBG and 3M’s Bicycle User Group partnered with Free Bikes 4 Kidz and the Sanneh Foundation to give away 200 reconditioned bikes, along with safety gear to students in our headquarters community. 3M volunteers helped the new bike owners learn the rules of the road and practice responding to real-world traffic situations in a safe setting.  

“You could see the pride and empowerment the kids felt as soon as they received their bike, Thad reflected. “It was a new beginning for them. They could now go places they couldn’t go before. It was amazing to see that transformation happen in the course of one afternoon.” 

Safety & Industrial Business Group (SIBG) focuses on promoting skilled trades 

SIBG will work to raise awareness of skilled trades as a viable career. The effort will focus on underrepresented students and young adults interested in vocational training for jobs that provide a living wage.  

“We’ve found a very interesting intersection of a community challenge and a customer challenge,” said Martha Bennett, engagement leader for social justice and vice president of global marketing excellence for SIBG. “Our customers tell us that one of their biggest challenges is a shortage of workers in the skilled trades area.”  

The SIBG equity team has focused on identifying community partnerships that support skilled trade occupations their customers are trying to fill. while connecting students and young adults to hands-on training and certification opportunities.  

For example, SIBG will sponsor 20 students who are training as electricians. The program is through Long Star Training – a non-profit focused on construction trades training and apprenticeships for under-served populations, women and veterans. The effort will also equip two schools in Austin, Texas, with a hands-on training facility for the electrical trades. The partner schools selected have a student population mix of more than 90% African American and Hispanic.  

“The element of inspiration is critical as we know that young people form what’s called their ‘occupational identity’ in middle school and start thinking about what’s possible for their life and their career pathway,” Martha said. “And as the saying goes, you have to see it to be  it. We want to inspire them of what’s possible and get them thinking about skilled trades as a viable career pathway that pays well.”   

The efforts will support 3M’s enterprise-wide goal to advance STEM equity by creating five million unique STEM and skilled trade learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025. 

Bringing it all together  

Enterprise Operations, which houses our global manufacturing supply chain operations, will tap into each of the focus areas as is relevant to their local community. Along with advancing equitable change, our business group efforts will drive business value by opening new opportunities for products and partnerships and helping serve our customers and communities in new ways.  

Check out 3M.com/equity to learn more about 3M’s commitments and efforts to support equity. 

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