3M pledges to source 100% renewable electricity

Multinational consumer goods, healthcare and industry firm 3M has become the latest corporate to join The Climate Group's RE100 initiative, pledging to source 100% renewable electricity for its global operations.

3M's Minnesota headquarters will be the first of the company's facilities to switch to 100% renewable power

3M's Minnesota headquarters will be the first of the company's facilities to switch to 100% renewable power

The 100% ambition has been set on an ongoing basis, with an interim aim of sourcing at least 50% of 3M’s power demand from renewables having been set on Monday (4 March).

As a first step towards the targets, 3M will switch all power used at its global headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota, with renewably generated electricity by the end of this week. The 409-acre complex consists of 30 buildings, which support more than 12,000 employees.

3M currently meets 5% of its global electricity demand with renewables, through a combination of onsite generation and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with external wind and solar farms. By switching its headquarters to 100% renewables, that proportion will increase to around 30%. The switch is being facilitated through a partnership between 3M and utility giant Xcel Energy, which generates and supplies clean power across eight Western and Midwestern states.

“By flipping the switch to becoming powered 100% by renewable energy, we are continuing to step up our leadership toward a more sustainable future – in our own operations and in solutions for our customers,” 3M’s chief executive Mike Roman said.

“By joining RE100 and switching to 100% renewable electricity globally, 3M is building sustainability into its business growth strategy and showing the two go hand-in-hand,” The Climate Group’s chief executive Helen Clarkson added.

“Seeing such a large manufacturer commit to go all in on renewables to produce sustainable new products is an encouraging step forward.”

Continued progress

3M's approach to sustainability has been recognised in numerous reports and rankings, notably the S&P Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) – considered the gold standard for corporative environmental, social and governance (ESG).

The company has already surpassed its 2025 goal of halving its carbon emissions against a 2002 baseline while growing the business, for example, after recording a 64% reduction in emissions between 2002 and 2014.

In a bid to spread its sustainability message beyond its operations, 3M has also expanded its range of products which enable consumers to generate and store renewable power at their homes and offices, including small-scale solar arrays. During 2018, these products helped customers to mitigate more than 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

More recently, the firm introduced a requirement that all products should be redesigned with built-in “sustainability value”. Under this commitment, all new product lines will be required to have at least one sustainability “success story” to tell which is “appropriate to the specific product” for its entire life-cycle. In total, 3M releases 1,000 new product lines every year.

Clean power surges

As of November 2018, 155 companies across 140 global markets had joined the RE100 initiative, with the group collectively sourcing 188TWh of clean power annually. RE100 members leverage a combined annual revenue of $4.5trn or 5% of global GDP, making the group a powerful source of financing for clean energy infrastructure.

The likes of VodafoneSony and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) are among the newest additions to the scheme, with The Climate Group aiming for 500 RE100 members by 2020.

More broadly, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has estimated that corporates obtained 13.4GW of clean energy through PPAs in 2018, more than doubling the record set in the previous year. This progress was largely driven by firms headquartered in the US and across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

Sarah George



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