Profiles in Leadership: 3M & Mike Roman
In the two short years since the Water Resilience Coalition was founded, the global climate emergency has tightened its grip on freshwater resources in a dramatic fashion: extreme drought conditions across vast regions, devastating floods and an increased risk for the well-being and prosperity of ecosystems, communities, and companies globally.
3M – with headquarters in Saint Paul, Minnesota in the US – relies on water as an important component in its manufacturing operations. CEO Mike Roman explains how science, circularity, and collaboration are central strategies to 3M’s diversified technology and manufacturing operations:
“At our core, we are a global science company with several industry-leading businesses: consumer, health care, transportation and electronics, safety and industrial. All of them operating in more than 70 countries with sales in more than 200 countries around the world.”
The company has long embraced sustainable business practices, going back decades with its Pollution Prevention Pays, an employee-driven innovation program. “We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment, and we take that responsibility seriously,” adds Roman.
In 2021, 3M decided to become a leadership member of the Water Resilience Coalition to be a part of a CEO-led network of over 25 companies committed to accelerating collective action to scale proven solutions to global water challenges.
Facing Accelerating Global Water Stress
The World Health Organization estimates that over 2 billion people live in water-stressed countries. This looming shortage of freshwater threatens ecosystems, communities, businesses, and the global economy. Unless urgent action is taken, these impacts will only worsen in the coming years.
“We know we can make a difference and science, collaboration and urgency are key to success,” says CEO Roman. “It’s about creating systems to promote a future of water circularity, a future where water stress is eliminated, resources are circulated, and nature is regenerated.”
The corporate sector has a unique role to play in solving the water challenges and building long-term water resilience—both by reducing the water impacts of their own operations and value chains and by uniting through collective action to positively accelerate solutions at a basin and global scale.
“The time to invest in actions to adapt and build resilient systems is now,” says Gayle Schueller, 3M’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “We’re working collectively with the Water Resilience Coalition for a vision of building a water resilient world for our communities, our ecosystems, our companies and the global economy”
Science Meets Collective Action
Science and technology are key drivers for both a circular economy and for net positive water impact: impact, which is quantifiable through data, geographically targeted at priority basins most at risk and that arises holistically from a combination of individual and collective corporate action.
“Science will help us solve this. At 3M, we’ve laid out bold goals to reduce water use and improve water quality with aggressive milestones to bend the curve early, driven by science,” continues CEO Roman.
And although for 3M, in-house technology and expertise are the foundation to achieving a circular economy, there is also recognition that extraordinary power lies in having a vision in common to accelerate action. Collaboration and application of technology and expertise can bring real, lasting improvements to water availability and quality on a global scale.
“We know water quality and climate are the most important sustainability priorities to our customers, our employees, our investors, and the communities where we operate. We also know it can’t be solved alone. It’s going to take collaboration and partnerships,” shares 3M’s CEO.
As a leadership member, Roman has had the opportunity to join forces with other CEOs to focus on shared commitments based on science and thought leadership developed within the Water Resilience Coalition, the CEO Water Mandate, the UN Global Compact, and the Pacific Institute among other partners.
“That’s why we’re so pleased to be part of the Water Resilience Coalition, to join with other leading companies, to share what we’ve learned, to learn from others, hopefully to inspire others and accelerate our collective impact,” says Mike Roman.
The Water Resilience Coalition is committed to achieving a water resilient future in partnership with a host of member companies and partner organizations. We encourage companies across all sectors to join the WRC to accelerate progress on sustainable, secure, and safe freshwater resources for generations yet to come.