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Science for both managing energy and addressing climate change

“Companies can no longer sit on the sidelines... we must embrace the opportunity to make a positive difference in society.”

September 28, 2021  By  Anthony Capkun

September 28, 2021 – Back in July, Richard Chartrand—sustainability lead for 3M Canada—published the article “State of Science: Canadians are counting on science to deliver a sustainable future”.*

In that article, he says 3M has committed to operating globally on 100% renewable energy by 2050. Here in Canada, 3M became one of the first Canadian organizations to be certified to the global standard ISO 50001 “Energy management” (as well as Superior Energy Performance – Platinum),** with six manufacturing locations across the country now certified, along with its laboratory in Montreal and headquarters based in London, Ont.

3M must be doing something right, as they’ve been recognized by Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation (a.k.a. CIPEC) and the global entity Clean Energy Ministerial.

I recently spoke with Richard—a 3Mer of 32 years—to dig deeper into his “State of Science” article, and find out what lessons we can learn from 3M with regard to its energy management initiatives.


ENERGY MANAGER CANADA: Each year, 3M conducts a research study called the “3M State of Science Index”, which gauges public attitudes towards science. According to your article, 90% of Canadians believe people should follow the science to help make the world more sustainable. Tell me a little more about this study.

RICHARD CHARTRAND: We started doing this study annually in 2018—not just in Canada, but in multiple countries. In Canada, when we look at the trend from 2018, skepticism of science was at about 25%, peaking to about 32% in 2019. However, because we were able to conduct the study pre-Covid and during Covid, we saw a significant decrease in skepticism, dropping to around 22% this year.

So Covid-19 made people reflect on the value of science, and overall skepticism decreased. In that regard, Canadians want science to help address climate change issues, which brings us to the issue of managing energy scientifically in our industries.

In fact, from the 3M State of Science Index, 63% of Canadians feel the pandemic has made them more environmentally conscious. The rise in support for the environment is being driven by younger generations, with Generation Z adults significantly more likely to exhibit this sentiment (81%).

We believe strongly that corporations like 3M, among others, can play a greater role in helping people understand the science behind climate solutions. Companies can no longer sit on the sidelines… we must embrace the opportunity to make a positive difference in society.

ENERGY MANAGER CANADA: As part of 3M’s energy management strategy, its London, Ont., headquarters now supports a 10-kW solar array, generating about 15,000 kWh annually. When it comes to proactive energy management, why should onsite generation—in this case, renewable—be a part of that conversation?

RICHARD CHARTRAND: Yes, that’s a great question, because there’s certainly been debate about onsite generation versus the electric utility providing generation and distribution.

At 3M Canada, we see our rooftop solar farm as not the end all and be all, but as another step in our energy management journey, and it makes us that much more aware of how we use and manage energy.

If I take a step back, the market has been decentralizing and trying to decarbonize for many years. It’s a journey… a long journey. We saw energy management as an opportunity to not only improve the cost of the energy we consume, but also to build a different culture in our enterprise.

So, generating some or all of your own energy may or may not be the right solution for everyone. Possibly, what works best in your situation is to push your electric utility for more renewable energy so you can decarbonize as much as possible.

Our rooftop solar also serves for product testing, as some of our products are used in solar PV applications, so we can test them under real-world conditions. Our solar installation also demonstrates the value of our energy journey to our employees, as well as our community.

ENERGY MANAGER CANADA: I appreciate you mentioning that what you have done at your London HQ may not be for everyone, because it opens the door to broader conversations about solutions that work in this person’s situation, but maybe not that person’s.

3M Canada was among the first Canadian organizations certified to the global standard ISO 50001 “Energy management”. Today, the company boasts eight ISO 50001-certified locations, which include manufacturing sites, the London HQ, and a Montreal laboratory.

Be they national, North American or global, when you consider all the various guidelines and standards out there, how does ISO 50001 certification differ?

RICHARD CHARTRAND: If we think about something like LEED [Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design], it does ask for resource efficiency to be built into buildings, but a big focus is also, you know, constructing buildings that are pleasant to be in.

ISO 50001, meantime, is a framework for a total energy management concept that encompasses the building and its people. How do you help people think about energy management, and drive that culture in your industry?

Everybody wants their facilities, their sites to be energy efficient, and we’re no different. What’s important for us is to continually drive and support that mindset and make it part of the culture.

Ultimately, we want our people to be successful, as well as our organization. We actively seek out suggestions from employees as to where we can make improvements. Plus, engagement from management is firmly rooted in ISO 50001; you set the policy, then work on metering and monitoring so you can identify your energy consumption and set targets for reduction.

We want to embed this mindset into everything we do as a business. And, to push that mindset even further, 3M has a Sustainability Value Commitment in our products, which aims to help our customers by providing them with products in which energy efficiency is embedded in their application.

Our energy management approach goes beyond our own buildings to encompass our culture, our supply chain, and our customers.

ENERGY MANAGER CANADA: Where strictly energy management is concerned, it sounds like ISO 50001 sounds much more detailed as compared to LEED.

RICHARD CHARTRAND: Correct. And it’s also built upon the mindset of continuous improvement. How have we performed this year? How does that compare to last year? Whatever our performance today, we aim to make it slightly better tomorrow, slightly better the day after that, and so on.

ENERGY MANAGER CANADA: In thinking about 3M Canada’s ISO 50001 certification journey—or should I say journeys, because of your multiple locations?—what were some of the most interesting lessons learned?

RICHARD CHARTRAND: Yes, there were lessons learned and many challenges. I don’t want to portray the journey as a walk in the park!

The first priority was to talk about how energy is an important aspect of our business processes; to start making it a priority in conversations and slowly build toward understanding and a cultural shift with people.

Once you’re able to demonstrate some cost savings and the value for the business, you start gaining the attention and passion of your employees, and it becomes embedded into your business processes.

Fortunately, a lot of our employees were very interested in participating in these efforts, coming to the table with their own passion.

We also came to see our journey as an employment brand value, and realized customers want to buy from companies that are seen to be doing something about energy and the climate.

It’s by no means simple to maintain the early gains—the low-hanging fruit. That’s where you rely on your culture of continuous improvement. We continue to put in place key tracking and metering mechanisms that allow us to monitor; we continue to make people aware, and our leadership has been very positive.

I’m really proud of the Canadian team’s work. We have a dedicated energy management team, which helped our people and sites along their ISO 50001 journeys. They are now applying that knowledge, not only in Canada, but in the United States and around the world.

ENERGY MANAGER CANADA: I was going to ask about that last point. While preparing for this discussion, I learned 3M uses science to help customers battle climate change in their own operations by sharing its energy management insights.

Through energy audits and recommendations, 3M claims to have uncovered millions of dollars in savings for other manufacturers and companies across Canada. How did that come about?

RICHARD CHARTRAND: Part of our sustainability objectives is to help our customers be more energy efficient, as well, so we’ve taken our knowledge and expertise and shared it with some of our customers who share similar values and goals. We’re continuously improving to create solutions that can drive sustainability through operational improvements.

For example, one of them is a food bank in one of the communities in which we operate, which shows that the philosophy of energy management can be applied to both large manufacturing facilities and small non-profits… really, anyone who wants to save every dollar they can on energy while helping with climate change.

In 2018, we announced the most direct link between sustainability and 3M innovation: our Sustainability Value Commitment. Several hundreds of new products go through 3M’s commercialization process every year, and all of them have to demonstrate impact for the greater good.

* LINK FOR the article “State of Science: Canadians are counting on science to deliver a sustainable future”.

** Superior Energy Performance is a certification from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.

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