3M is a $25 billion diversified technology company which, since 1902, has been creating innovative products to help make the world healthier, safer and more productive. Operating in more than 60 countries around the world, with 79,000 employees, 3M products are sold in nearly 200 countries.
The company has long standing, strongly held values that are based on honesty and integrity; quality and value – and respect for the social and phyical environment. In the mid-1970s, for example, 3M became one of the the first companies in the world to address the issue of its environmental impact.
In the UK 3M has launched its second web based learning tool for teachers; the first being Streetwise, a child road safety resource, which has been in place since 2006. The learning tools are designed in conjunction with educational specialists, to help schools bring real issues to life for school pupils between the ages of 7 and 14.
This case study looks at 3M's new web-based sustainability education tool, Worldlywise, and its role in helping school students make sustainable decisions.
The second programme, Worldlywise, was developed because the company believes strongly in the importance of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) in schools and in response to the decreasing rates of school students going on to become qualified for the technology sector.
The new Worldlywise website focuses on sustainability and the environment. The aim of the resource will be to educate pupils about sustainable living and to show them that society needs scientists, engineers and new technology to help solve the problems of the future.
The first phase of the three year programme focuses on the role of technology and the complexity of the issues in making sustainable decisions. “By making the topics relevant to their lives, we hope to engage and motivate students to choose science, technology, engineering and maths when it comes to selecting qualifications and careers,” comments John Klee, 3M’s Corporate Communications Manager.
Initially, 3M toyed with the idea of simply demonstrating the benefits of technological improvements for sustainability. Instead the programme highlights the wide range of issues that need to be considered when making ‘sustainable’ decisions, encouraging pupils to think about their own lifestyle choices. Says John Klee: “The response to so many questions on sustainability starts with the caveat ‘Well, it depends…’. For example, in certain circumstances, an imported product could, counter-intuitively, have a lesser carbon footprint than a locally produced product.”
The second and third phases of the programme involve expanding the tool to other areas of the curriculum, such as geography, and increasing the mathematics content.
The programme is also designed to complement 3M’s STEM Ambassadors by providing them with an accessible, easy-to-use resource which requires minimal advance planning, as the company believes that preparation time is one of the biggest deterrents to more employees becoming Ambassadors. As the resource is web-based, it will be freely available for not only 3M’s STEM Ambassadors, but also for people from other organisations.
Why is it CSR?
The company has set up the Worldlywise programme as part of their three pronged approach to sustainability. The first is the company’s own carbon footprint; the second is the promotion of 3M products that can help its customers to be more sustainable; the third is to gain the active involvement of its employees.
Some of the direct business benefits of the programme could be as much as a decade away, in the form of qualified and enthusiastic graduate recruits in the field of technological development and design. On a far wider scale, however, the programme has also been designed to build up the relationships between youth and their immediate environment, i.e. issues of sustainability.
Lastly, the company sees the programme as an ethical responsibility; as a source of pride for its employees and peers.
3M plans to promote the Worldlywise site and have it recognised as a free, professional, user friendly tool, accissible for teachers and STEM Ambassadors - both those working for 3M and for other organisations.
Further reading on 3M:
For more information on 3M please contact John Klee on firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Article 13 – CSR Case Study Series, August 2009
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