Case Study: Understanding Stakeholder Perspectives – 3M
In 2013, 3M commissioned an independent research consultancy to advance the company’s understanding of stakeholder perspectives on key social and environmental issues. This materiality assessment process consisted of three consecutive steps, each providing critical information for the next:
- examination of relevant literature on sustainability materiality issues.
- individual interviews with small populations of 3M employees and external stakeholders from academia, civil society, the private sector, 3M suppliers, trade associations, media and 3M customers.
- quantitative online survey of larger populations of internal and external stakeholders, with samples reflecting 3M’s diverse business and inclusive across geography, stakeholder type and function.
The online survey presented a list of significant sustainability-related issues generated from the prior steps in the materiality assessment process. Internal stakeholders were asked to rate the ability of 3M to make a positive difference on significant issues, and external stakeholders, divided into 3M customers and other external groups, were asked to rate the importance of 3M addressing each issue. All stakeholder groups were asked to rate 3M’s performance on actions to address each issue. The estimated impact on 3M’s sustainability reputation was derived through regression analysis to determine the importance of 3M’s perceived performance in each issue area across the three audiences.
The results of the assessment generated an evidence-based sustainability materiality matrix. This matrix plots significant issues related to sustainability along three axes: the degree of importance stakeholders accord to each issue, the ability of 3M to make a positive difference on these issues and the level of impact these issues may have on the company’s reputation.
3M will use the results to define future sustainability initiatives.