"Singapore is our Southeast Asia (SEA) hub and products made here reach across and beyond SEA."
Could you introduce 3M’s presence in Singapore and the role it plays in ASEAN?
3M started operations in Singapore in 1966 with just eight employees. 56 years and SGD$1bn in investments later, we have over 1,800 employees and three facilities: our HQ and Customer Technical Center at Ang Mo Kio and two manufacturing plants, one at Woodlands manufacturing, and one at Tuas as well as a Research and Development facility at the Woodlands. Our Woodlands site manufactures products like our optically clear adhesives, sintered abrasives, and high-speed data cables, whereas Tuas is well known for manufacturing N95 respirators, specialty film products, reflective sheeting, and polymer processing additives. 3M’s products touch upon different sectors, from healthcare to transportation, electrics, industrial needs, and consumer goods.
Singapore is our Southeast Asia (SEA) hub and products made here reach across and beyond SEA. Besides Singapore, 3M has a regional footprint in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. From Singapore, we look after all six markets, while also having a country leader for each.
Could you elaborate on the ways that sustainability shapes your product portfolio?
Our CEO Mike Roman recently shared 3M’s long-term strategy to invest approximately US$1 billion over the next 20 years to accelerate new environmental goals, achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, reduce water use by 25% at its facilities, and return higher quality water to the environment after use in manufacturing operations. Embedding a Sustainability Value Commitment into our new products means that each product needs to demonstrate how it benefits the environment, through attributes like recyclability, reusability, energy savings, waste reduction, water savings, responsible sourcing, or the use of renewable materials. This is a great initiative that points to the direction we would like to take in the future as a company, but it is also a reflection of our continuous commitment to sustainability and climate – indeed, back in the 1970s when few people spoke about the threats of global warming or pollution, 3M was working on Pollution Prevention Pays (PPP), a program through which our employees collaborate to improve our production processes and products to prevent pollution. Today, our sustainability framework is guided by science for circular, science for climate, and science for community, all three dimensions anchoring our purpose-driven innovation in both our end products and their respective production processes.
What are your observations regarding the growth and importance of e-commerce platforms for large suppliers like 3M?
Digitalization is huge, to the extent that if you’re not present in the digital space, you’re not relevant to your customers. The pandemic has greatly accelerated the importance of e-commerce. If prior to the pandemic about 4% of all consumer sales were channeled online, now over 20% of consumer sales are realized via e-commerce platforms. We have been working very closely with Lazada, coordinating their reach with our e-commerce team in order to find enablers that can help us become more effective for each market we are serving in SEA.
Can you tell us about the 3M “Inspire Challenge”?
“The 3M Inspire Challenge” is an initiative that seeks to give students the chance to step into the business world, interact with corporations, and be rewarded for their ideas. Gender diverse groups of two to four individuals compete in three categories, submitting their ultimate plan with the hope of being asked to present to a diverse panel of judges. Last year, team Too Good Duo from the National University of Malaysia came up with a sustainable product idea that uses nano composite in our waterproof bandages. We liked this so much that we filed for a patent. The initiative started in Southeast Asia and in 2022 it will be expanded across Asia and our European organization is potentially looking to replicate this competition there.
What are 3M’s main objectives for the years to come?
We are a very large, global company with over 60,000 products, yet many individuals know us from the consumer products we offer. It is important for us to continue building awareness of our safety and industrial products, transportation and electronic products and our healthcare products. Secondly, we will continue working closely with the government to deepen relationships we enjoy today. Finally, we will continue to build on and expand close relationships with our customers and channel partners so that we can broaden penetration throughout the region.