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.

[This case study originally appeared in the GEMI Quick Guide on Cultivating Sustainability within an Organization]. 

Source: 3M 2014 Sustainability Report.

Source: 3M 2014 Sustainability Report.

Case Study: ConocoPhillips – Employee Awareness

One aspect of cultivating sustainability internally is expanding awareness of the business benefits of social and environmental issues.  The ConocoPhillips approach encompasses a broad range of activities and tools. The company has helped create, adapt and apply training materials by IPIECA (the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues) and other best practice groups, and rolled out training to new hires, key functions and leaders. ConocoPhillips has also focused its internal networks on further integration of sustainable development commitments into business planning and processes.

ConocoPhillips developed a video within a larger strategy for employee awareness of sustainability.  The corporate sustainability group teamed with a business unit and developed a short, fun video to tie the concepts together with real operational examples. Backed by research that compiled a variety of stories and tested ideas with global internal focus groups in operations and offices, the video was designed to deepen education about the economic, environmental, and social implications of the business and bring to life the company’s successes and challenges.  The information and stories clarify the business value of sustainability and encourage everyone to be a leader who includes social and environmental understanding in day-to-day decision-making processes.

The video instills a consistent, global level of knowledge about sustainability. Once employees have an understanding of the concepts, business value, goals and expectations that apply globally, each business unit is better equipped to implement specific actions that relate the global concepts to the uniqueness of the individual operating business unit. This is done through a framework of business unit and company-wide action plans in key sustainability topics.

Thirty percent of all employees voluntarily watched the video in the first few weeks.  Leaders at all levels talked about it.  Practitioners used the video for “lunch and learn” discussions within work groups.  The effort was so popular that employees requested the company to share the video externally. As a result, the company posted two four-minute modules in its online Sustainable Development Report

[This case study originally appeared in the GEMI Quick Guide on Cultivating Sustainability within an Organization]. 


Image and Source: ConocoPhillips’ Sustainability Milestones Timeline provides a broader overview of integration efforts and demonstrates how awareness & engagement is one piece of the puzzle




Case Study: Philips66 – Mixed Media Brings Small Success

While planning for a regularly-scheduled update to senior management on sustainability, a Phillips66 team came across a two-minute video on repairs to one of its facilities that were made after a natural disaster. Once completed, the repairs provided protection for both the facility and the substation that connected with the surrounding community’s power source.

The team suggested that the manager of the facility share the video with executives at the update meeting, in addition to the planned presentation.  The video, however, was a departure from the trusted and “normal” communication format, and the Phillips66 team could see that the manager was outside of her comfort zone.  Having previewed the clip, the Phillips66 team knew the video was relevant, of high quality and concise.

The manager immediately saw the relevance of the videoclip and noted that it punctuated the points in her presentation. In addition, she warmed up to the idea of supplementing the existing slides with the video material – so much so that she sent the video to senior management before the meeting just as “background information.”

[This case study originally appeared in the GEMI Quick Guide on Cultivating Sustainability within an Organization]. 

Case Study: Seeking Employee Input Regarding Opportunities and Challenges – Union Pacific

There is no substitute for employee input regarding a company’s opportunities and challenges, which almost always connect to sustainability.  Employees often see the issues first-hand.

Union Pacific has found that Earth Day is a natural way to open a conversation with employees regarding environmental sustainability topics.  Each Earth Day, Union Pacific has used an Environmental Quiz to share messages and raise awareness.  About 1,000 employees take the quiz annually, opening a sustainability conversation with several thousand people over time.

The company uses the Environmental Quiz to seek employee feedback.  Employee responses to the 2013 quiz showed the importance of environmental sustainability concepts to them and measured how well they understood the company’s initiatives.  Responses also helped confirm the value of the company’s sustainability focuses and measure employee interest and engagement.

The quiz asked employees to identify the company’s greatest opportunity to reduce its environmental impact.  More than a third of employees identified reducing locomotive fuel consumption as the greatest opportunity.  Reducing the company’s fuel consumption rate is a key corporate priority.  Locomotives account for nearly all of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions, and responses showed that employees understood that.

Another question asked employees to identify the company’s greatest opportunity to reduce waste.  Answers covered nearly 20 actions, and paper was identified as the greatest opportunity.  Like any large company, Union Pacific has a lot of paperwork, including that required by the federal government to operate trains. Even though the company had reduced paper consumption through employee suggestions, the quiz reinforced potential for further improvement.

[This case study originally appeared in the GEMI Quick Guide on Cultivating Sustainability within an Organization].