In order to gather stakeholder perspectives on these issues, GlobeScan examined relevant literature on sustainability materiality issues and conducted in-depth interviews with 3M executives and external opinion formers. Insights from this discovery phase were then applied in an international quantitative survey of 3M’s internal and external stakeholders to provide a 360 degree assessment of sustainability materiality issues for 3M.
GlobeScan developed 3M’s Materiality Matrix that plots important social and environmental issues along three axes (see below). The matrix shows the degree of importance stakeholders place on each issue, the ability of 3M to make a positive difference on each issue and the level of impact each issue may have on the company’s reputation. Each point on the matrix is determined from quantitative measures gained from the online survey and can be tracked over time.
The top right area of the matrix shows that the environmental issues of water quality, energy use and reducing waste and toxic substances warrant the greatest attention as they are of high stakeholder concern and have a significant impact on 3M’s reputation. These three issues are also ones that 3M has a higher degree of control over.
The matrix also shows that ethical business and working conditions are both issues of high importance and where 3M has a degree of control. Community safety and health and human rights also have a high importance but are viewed as 3M having less control.
The Sustainability Materiality Matrix provides 3M with a quantitative and systematic understanding of stakeholder priorities and enables the company to determine the sustainability issues that are material to it. Moreover, the Matrix gives 3M a robust and transparent assessment for advancing 3M sustainability and engaging its stakeholders. Other aspects of the research indicated that stakeholders view 3M product and process innovation as a key approach to address its issues and that 3M can help advance sustainability performance within its sphere of influence, including its suppliers, customers and communities.
3M is a global innovation company with sales of $31 billion, operations in more than 70 countries, sales in nearly 200 countries, and over 88,000 employees. Through its five business units (Consumer, Electronics and Energy, Health Care, Industrial, and Safety and Graphics), 3M provides more than 55,000 products. With support from GlobeScan, 3M created a robust stakeholder-driven approach to sustainability materiality that serves as a foundation for its sustainability strategy and reporting.