Inside the values: 3M.

Posted: 25 January 2022

By Luke Upton

3M is one of those companies that you might not be able to name a product made by them but your house, workplace and transport will undoubtedly include their items. They produce over 60,000 products under dozens of brands. The company started as a small-scale mining venture in Northern Minnesota, then named Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company in 1902, and now operates in more than 70 countries with over 90,000 employees. They are an interesting company, so lets go inside the values with 3M!

Visiting the 3M website, you are immediately struck by a positive and values-based tone. There’s a lead story, the title of which tells me – ‘in 2021, science has inspired a sense of optimism around the world’. Whilst among the menu items, just after ‘About Us’ and ‘Careers’ and before ‘Investors’ comes ‘Sustainability’ and the by now industry standard clipart image of a hand with a plant growing out of it.

Scroll down the homepage a little more, you’ll see a section entitled – ‘We solve problems big and small’, which contains stories about their work in the fight against Covid-19 and other challenges.

Keep going down and you’ll find another section, ‘Our commitments in action – at 3M we are always in pursuit of solutions that make lives better’, with detailed and media rich stories about carbon neutrality, gender diversity and other positive topics.

So, it’s clear that 3M is keen to put a focus on the positives that its products and patents deliver.

3M’s actions are they say guided by a corporate vision of “uncompromising honesty and integrity.”, They are proud of their commitment to sustainable development through environmental protection, social responsibility, and economic success.

Their published guiding values include:

  • Act with uncompromising honesty and integrity in everything we do.
  • Satisfy our customers with innovative technology and superior quality, value and service.
  • Provide our investors an attractive return through sustainable, global growth.
  • Respect our social and physical environment around the world.
  • Value and develop our employees’ diverse talents, initiative and leadership.
  • Earn the admiration of all those associated with 3M worldwide.

M’s vision statement is “3M products enhancing every home. 3M innovation improving every life.”

Their emphasis is now on how their tradition of scientific exploration and problem-solving can help the world work more efficiently ad sustainability. A plan with a deadline of 2025 features goals such as achieving zero-landfill status, investing in educational programs, and providing training to over five million people.

3M supports programs like WorldSkills, Young Scientist Challenge and 3M Visiting Wizards, each of which hopes to inspire the next generation of scientists, innovators, and inventors.

While their values look exemplary, the reality hasn’t always matched the goals. They’ve had problems with pollution and harmful chemicals, a still huge carbon footprint, products such as the CAE v2 earplug designed for the US military which it is claimed didn’t work and battles with unions.

The values of 3M are orientated less on products or patents but people and problems, more specifically how they are solving them. As a 120-year-old company, rooted in the production via heavy industry of 10,000s of goods and products it’s a smart move, insulating them from some criticisms and attempting to place 3M on the right side of the current social conversation.

As ever when we go inside the values with companies like 3M, the media, communications and HR team can only do so much to deliver their values, ultimately it will be on the senior management, manufacturing and operations teams that will ensure they are genuine.