Renewable energy ambitions can help power collaborative sustainability
Feb 12, 2021

Megatrend Spotlight: Earlier this year, 3M shared the megatrends that are shaping the next 5-10 years of life on this planet. To understand the source of these trends, and their impact around the globe, we are taking a deeper dive into the key themes and the ways our people, technology and solutions are working to improve lives.  

The world’s natural environment is experiencing disruptive change. Factors such as rising sea levels, elevated pollution levels, poor air quality, resource scarcity and extreme weather events have led to greater concerns about the future health of the planet and its people. As our climate continues to change, every part of the world is impacted and forced to confront the serious implications. The importance of clean air, water and food are obvious, actions to secure these needs now, and into the future are urgently required.  We expect climate change to be a major influence for the foreseeable future, and the world must act upon it.

One of the key advancements being made in response to the changing climate is the creation and use of alternative energy sources. In the first quarter of 2020, renewables accounted for nearly 28% of global electricity supply. And although the COVID-19 pandemic drew significant focus in the remainder of the year, with ever-increasing global demand, corporations and governments are continuing to make policies that advance renewable energy usage.

Supporting, sourcing and utilizing alternative energy sources are key components of 3M’s sustainability strategy. Whether it’s through the products and technologies we supply to the global market, or efforts within our operations, 3M is helping to advance the transition to renewables. For example, 3M™ Wind Blade Protection Tape (being applied in the image above) can help protect the leading edge of wind turbine blades against weathering and harsh environments, ultimately enhancing reliability and improving the performance of wind turbines.

3M also offers a suite of technologies that is helping to power the production of lighter, more durable, energy-efficient electric vehicles. This portfolio includes adhesives and alternative solutions that can be used in place of heavier materials and required fastening methods like spot welding, rivets and bolts. For example, high-strength, low-density glass bubbles can enable weight reductions of up to 30% or more in many different materials. Making electric vehicles lighter, yet just as strong, means less energy is required to propel the vehicle and their range is longer.

One long-standing proprietary technology that is helping to improve energy efficiency in electric vehicles as well as in traditional applications on residential and commercial properties is 3M window films. These solutions can help with thermal management—rejecting solar energy and heat-producing infrared rays to reduce the stress on temperature control systems and lowering overall energy consumption.

In terms of its own operations, back in February 2019, our CEO, Mike Roman, pledged to transition 3M to 100% renewable electricity across its global footprint. He also announced that we would increase our interim target for energy sourced from renewables from 25% to 50% by 2025. Combined, these renewable energy commitments will reduce an estimated 930,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year by 2025. To help achieve our goals, the company has invested in multiple on-site solar array installations, including at manufacturing facilities in California and Singapore. In California, these arrays provide approximately 20% of the electrical power required by the plant, and in Singapore, the panels contribute approximately 8.5% of necessary power. More recently, at the start of 2021, all 3M locations in Poland as well as 3M Canada’s head office in London, Ontario, joined our global headquarters in powering their facilities using 100% renewable sources.

To encourage and aid others in the shift to renewables, 3M is an active member of RE100, a global leadership initiative that brings together companies committed to achieving 100% renewable power by 2050, as well as a board member for the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit, bipartisan alliance of business, government, environmental and consumer leaders advocating for enhanced energy productivity to achieve economic growth, a cleaner environment, and greater energy security, affordability and reliability. In 2020, 3M became a patron sponsor of the United Nation’s Global Compact and started working with the UNGC and other program sponsors to create tools and resources that will help other companies set robust and ambitious sustainability goals, driving progress towards a mitigating climate change and a sustainable future.

“By collaborating among employees, customers, governments and other global organizations, we can help drive products and solutions that advance the shift to renewable energy,” said Gayle Schueller, 3M Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer. “Post-pandemic, we have the distinct opportunity to build in better, more sustainable ways. Utilizing electricity from renewable sources is one of many more sustainable solutions for businesses. By investing in global alternative energy infrastructure, we can benefit our rebounding economies and our environment.”

To learn more about the shift toward Normalizing Alternative Energy, a key theme under the Changing Climates and Resources Megatrend, click here.

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