The pollution Prevention Pays (3P) program introduced by 3M in 1975 is perhaps the earliest example of a U.S. firm taking explicit action in environmental management. The reasons cited for the 3P program were strategic; pollution represented waste, an inefficient use of resources, so eliminating pollution should improve efficiency. The 3P program provided incentives for employees to seek innovative ways to eliminate waste at the source, rather than merely recycling or recovery. It was aimed primarily at 3M's technical staff in its laboratories, manufacturing, and engineering divisions worldwide. Between 1975 and 1992, the 3P initiative involved more than 3,000 projects, prevented more than 1 billion pounds of emissions, and saved 3M more than $500 million.25 These results led to emulation; in the mid-1980s, Dow launched its Waste Reduction Always Pays (WRAP) program and Chevron started an effort to "Save Money and Reduce Toxics (SMART)."
While 3M saw numerous benefits from the 3P program's results—lower operating and manufacturing costs, reduced regulatory compliance paperwork, fewer potential liabilities, improved competitive position, improved company reputation, and lower waste disposal costs—no specific goals had been articulated at the outset. The only explicit aims articulated by 3M and Dow were that their employees act according to a hierarchy of pollution prevention priorities that put source reduction at the top of the list, followed by recovery and recycling, waste-treatment, and finally, disposal. Dow President and CEO, Frank Popoff, clearly had more than just cost reduction in mind when he spoke of the reasons for the WRAP program:
… the public is skeptical of industry's efforts at environmental protection. If we fail to take the initiative, the result will be a regulatory crunch that costs us—and the public—dearly without achieving significant benefits. Through pollution prevention, industry can be viewed as part of the solution, not as part of the problem.26
Several of the strategic goals discussed earlier—cost reduction, restoration of public trust, and avoidance of inflexible regulation—are clearly evident in the actions taken by 3M, Dow, and Chevron in these early initiatives. However, these goals were never clearly articulated as commitments to the public or other stakeholders, and no specific targets for performance were set. Since the mid-1980s, corporate environmental goals have taken on both of these attributes.
The Monsanto Pledge, first articulated by CEO Richard Mahoney in 1990 in response to his company's Toxic Release Inventory data for 1987, committed Monsanto to several specific actions. First, it aimed to reduce toxic air emissions by 90% by the end of 1992, with an ultimate goal of zero emissions of all toxic and hazardous substances. Six other elements of the Pledge include the following: to ensure that no Monsanto operation poses any undue risk to employees or communities, to achieve sustainable agriculture through new technology and practices,