Taking inventory of greenhouse gas emissions
Sep 24, 2020
Photo credit: ©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico

As a company rooted in scientific exploration and the belief that every problem has a solution, in 2019, 3M embarked on a journey to calculate downstream Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“I cannot stress enough how leading edge this is,” says Sustainability expert Lisa Grice, Executive Director, North America, Anthesis Group. “In my experience, I am not aware of another company with as broad a portfolio that has done this. 3M is breaking new ground and showing other companies it can be done.”

The World Resources Institute (WRI)/World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, used by more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies, is an international accounting tool that helps businesses understand, measure, and manage their GHG emissions. The GHG Protocol separates emissions into three categories:

Scope 1 — All direct emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by a company. Examples include a company’s facilities and owned vehicles.

Scope 2 — All indirect emissions from the generation of energy purchased by the company. Examples include purchased electricity, heating, and cooling.

Scope 3 — All other indirect emissions, not included in Scope 2, from sources that are not owned or controlled by the company but are related to the company’s activity — for example, the energy used by a consumer who buys and plugs in a Filtrete™ Room Air Purifier.

Since 2002, 3M’s EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) Laboratory has calculated the company’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions on an annual basis, and 3M has reduced its overall Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 68.1% while growing our business.

What makes Scope 3 different?

Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions are difficult to calculate for a diverse, highly technical manufacturing company with more than 200 facilities in over 70 countries. Scope 3 emissions, as defined by the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard, are even more difficult to calculate because of the sheer number of 3M’s products and diverse product portfolio.

It took three years to create the Scope 3 Accounting and Reporting Standard, and 3M was one of the companies that road tested it before it was released by the GHG Protocol in 2011. Scope 3 includes 15 separate categories of emission sources, both upstream and downstream of operations, and, as explained on the GHG Protocol website, “allows companies to assess their entire value chain emissions impact and identify where to focus reduction activities.”

“We looked at Scope 3 [in 2011], and it was too daunting for us to even contemplate,” says EHS Laboratory Manager Brian Mader, “but in 2012, we were able to start calculating some of those categories.”

The lab calculated Scope 3 categories one through eight and category 13, but due to the complexity of 3M’s multiple businesses and 55,000 products, categories nine through 12 were not evaluated (and categories 14 and 15 do not apply to 3M’s structure). In 2019, the EHS Laboratory took on the formidable task of calculating categories nine through 12 (9: Transportation and distribution; 10: Processing of sold products; 11: Use of sold products; 12: End-of-life treatment of sold products).

“We weren’t required to do any of this,” says Mader. “The standard we follow called out an exemption for complex companies like 3M.” And yet they felt it was not only the right thing to do, it was also necessary in order to take the next steps toward reaching 3M’s corporate Sustainability goals.

3M has had GHG reduction goals since 2007. To continue its industry leading efforts to reduce its own GHG emissions, they wanted to create a goal in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increases below 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures, in alignment with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

As Mader explains it, there can only be a finite amount of GHGs in the atmosphere before the global temperature rises more than 1.5°C. With this detailed science-based analysis, 3M will be able to look at where they are today and will then create a plan to do their part to keep the level of GHGs below this critical value.

How they did it

The first step in 3M’s Scope 3 work was compiling the SKU data for all 55,000 3M products as well as the quantity of each SKU sold and the size or mass of the product. Next, they distilled the 55,000 down to those with a material Scope 3 GHG footprint and identified 300 fundamental categories based on the composition and use of each product. Emission factors were then determined for each product category.

Other Topics

Contact Media Relations

Contact Media Email

These contacts are intended only for the media. If you are not a member of the media, please call 1-888-3M HELPS (1-888-364-3577).

We will get back to you within one business day.

Email Alerts

Subscribe to receive automatic updates via email for 3M news & stories.