3M Applies Science to Make a Better World

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Since its 1902 founding in Two Harbors, Minnesota, as a mining company, 3M has been driven by a spirit of exploration, innovation and scientific inquiry. Today, 3M is a global conglomerate with product lines across an improbably diverse range of categories, from industrial abrasives to pet care products to diagnostic equipment. But for all its variety, its brand represents a singular focus. The entire 3M culture is bound together by an abiding faith in the power of science to create a better world.

“As people face the most challenging health crisis in our lifetime,” says Chairman/CEO Mike Roman,“ science is more relevant, more trusted, and more important to people all over the world.”

When the pandemic struck, 3M was in the first wave of US corporations to respond—head on and on multiple fronts—through manufacturing and R&D, partnerships with other corporations and nonprofits, philanthropy and community outreach.

The nation’s largest manufacturer of N95 respirators, 3M had begun ramping up production in the US and China as early as January as demand showed worrying signs of outstripping supply. The momentum continued through February, and in March 3M formed a partnership with Ford to increase production of critically needed PAPRs—powered air-purifying respirators. The company has since joined forces with a number of corporations and academic institutions, including MIT, HP, University of Minnesota, Seoul National University and Nissha Medical Technologies to develop and produce respirators, diagnostic tests, particulate filters, face shields, sanitizer and other vital equipment and distribute it to the community health centers and hospitals where it’s most needed.

On the philanthropic front, 3M has contributed $20 million to communities in support of frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the virus. The company is the lead sponsor for Direct Relief’s COVID-19 Fund for Community Health, which provides community health centers with direct financial aid to support healthcare workers, and has contributed millions of dollars to numerous other initiatives, such as United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund, as well as a wide array of R&D initiatives at leading education institutions in the US and worldwide.

If science is one-half of the 3M brand, humanitarianism is the other. On Memorial Day 2020, as infection rates and fatalities continued to mount, the nation’s attention was wrenched away from COVID-19 and drawn to the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. As protestors across the US—and the world—took to the streets to demand an end to systemic racism, 3M established a Social Justice Fund and worked with a key group of 3M stakeholders to assess local organizations with a focus on legal justice, racial equity and healing. Ultimately four groups were selected to each receive a $250,000 grant in support of their work.

It can be said that there is science and there is applied science—an approach grounded in a mission to “improve lives and help solve humanity’s toughest problems,” as Mike Roman notes. The 3M slogan, “Science. Applied to Life,” says it succinctly—a credo that defines a company as it battles a pandemic and works to create a more just and equitable world.

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About Brand Acts of Kindness® 

Brand Acts of Kindness® is a series from Carpenter Group that spotlights companies across industries that are living their brand values in addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the world today.

The series initially headlined companies assisting healthcare workers and first responders, as well as communities, businesses and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also highlight brands taking the lead in supporting social and racial justice, LGBTQ rights, sustainability and the environment. Their stories show how innovation, resolve and action, built on a solid value proposition, can both strengthen a brand and help create a better world.

About Carpenter Group

Carpenter Group is an independent, woman-owned strategic branding, messaging and marketing communications firm that has delivered results-driven solutions to financial, professional services and technology firms for 30+ years.

Our broad cross-discipline experience enables us to craft brand messaging and carry it through to the channels that most effectively connect with our clients’ target audience, from editorial content to advertising to event marketing and more.