3M commits to design all new products with 'built-in' sustainability value

Multinational consumer goods, healthcare and industry firm 3M has today (6 December) unveiled a new requirement for all products it releases from January 2019 to be designed with "sustainability value" built in.

Operating across five sectors, 3M releases 1,000 new products each year

Operating across five sectors, 3M releases 1,000 new products each year

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. Such success stories include reusability, recyclability, responsible raw material sourcing and the avoidance of resource or waste-intensive manufacturing processes.

 

Products with the ability of the product to deliver energy, waste, water or carbon savings for the end-user will also be classed as meeting the requirement, as will innovations aimed at tackling issues such as air quality, transport optimisation and safety in healthcare settings, 3M said in a statement.

Consumer goods brands owned by 3M include Post-It notes, Scotch stationary and Command adhesive strips, with the company owning dozens more brands across the energy, electronics, healthcare, graphics and safety sectors. In total, 3M releases 1,000 new product lines per year.

“As a large and diverse global science company with customers spanning many industries and global markets, we have the opportunity to make an even greater impact in sustainability,” 3M’s vice president and chief sustainability officer and Dr. Gayle Schueller said.

“The new product goal is an example of the aggressive targets we’ll be setting in the coming months as part our strategic focus on empowering science for the circular economy, climate and community.”

3M’s chief technology officer John Banovetz added that the commitment, which was announced at the COP24 Summit in Katowice, Poland, will serve to “formalise” the company’s commitment to fostering green innovation.

The company is notably hosting a ‘business for the global good’ event at the conference today, which will bring together policymakers, climate experts and sustainability leaders from the public and private sectors.

Product rethink 

The move from 3M comes at a time when many large retailers and manufacturers are beginning to set product-specific sustainability targets, championing both resource efficiency and waste, water, carbon or energy benefits for end-users. 

Home improvement firm Kingfisher, for example, has this year unveiled a new sustainable growth plan, with a headline goal of achieving 50% of the group’s sales by 2020 from products that “actively make customers’ homes more sustainable”. Such items include LED lighting, insulation and low-flow taps. 

Similarly, Ikea has committed to design all of its products using "democratic" design principles, which aim to ensure all items have a place and purpose in the circular economy. Under these principles, the retailer is now making some products, such as water bottles and storage crates, from plastic waste, and last year launched its first kitchen incorporating 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics and PCR wood. 

Elsewhere, both Marks and Spencer (M&S) and Selfridges have committed to ensure that all their own-brand fashion lines have at least one "sustainability success story" to tell to consumers, with details of sustainability in supply chains to be detailed on their labels. 

Luxury fashion brand Burberry is also currently "interrogating" the design and manufacturing process for all of its product lines, in a bid to take at least two new actions per product to make these processes more sustainable by 2020. These actions will then be printed on product tags. 

Sarah George 


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