3M Company (NYSE: 3M), the maker of some 55,000 products from Scotch tape and Post-it® Notes to Thinsulate fabrics, film used in LCD televisions, and green cleaning products, has taken environmental friendliness to the next level.
3M, which has worked to operate more efficiently since the Energy Crisis spawned by the 1970s Arab oil embargo, has shaved its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 70% since 1990—primarily through buying renewable energy and using solar power at some of its manufacturing facilities.
Traditionally a small player in renewable energy, 3M last year created a new business unit, "3M RE" or 3M Renewable Energy Division (RED), to make a grab for a higher stake in the fast-growing solar and wind industries.
Since patenting the first window films in 1966, 3M has gone on to be a leader in new technologies designed to control light and manage energy costs in residential and commercial buildings. Its next generation thin films are applied to existing windows to lower heat loss and gain and the sun's glare, allowing its customers to save energy, reduce their carbon footprint, and qualify for utility rebates and tax credits.
The company's reflective films are now being adapted a new use: Maximizing solar panels' energy harnessing properties. 3M supplies equipment such as mirrored solar panels and Fresnel lenses, which are used to concentrate sunlight onto solar cells. And its cutting-edge tapes and adhesives are being used to help build lighter, stronger and cheaper roof-mounted solar-energy systems.
The Minnesota manufacturing giant hasn't stopped there. Its tough polyurethane Wind Tape is used to protect the leading edge of fiberglass wind turbine blades, effectively extending their service life and lowing maintenance costs.
Hisco, an employee-owned distribution company serving industrial and electronics assembly markets, has recently signed on to distribute 3M's RED products, including solar and wind tapes, adhesives, sealants and encapsulants.
In the face of the recession, heavily diversified 3M posted surprisingly strong second-quarter results that exceeded the firm's sales, profit and cash flow expectations despite a 17% drop in earnings.
Given its increasing focus on energy management and sustainable opportunities worldwide, 3M's future looks bright.
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