Raya Makawi of 3M - Sustainability, Materials Science, Carbon Capture, Circular Economy, STEM and More #002

James Taylor and Alison Burns, hosts of The Ethical Futurists podcast, discuss sustainability, ethics, and future trends. They engage with leading thinkers and professionals to explore topics such as renewable energy, clean tech, ethical investing, and food systems. Their guest, Raya Makawi, highlights her work in sustainability efforts in the Middle East and Africa, her involvement with COP27 and COP28, and her achievements at 3M in innovation and quality management. Raya emphasizes the importance of stakeholder engagement, education, and the integration of sustainability into business practices. She also discusses 3M’s sustainability initiatives, such as the 15% culture of innovation and the sustainability value commitment.


Sound Bites

  1. “Sustainability is living responsibly and with purpose.”
  2. “No company can do it on its own; collaboration is essential for climate action.”
  3. “Every new product enters the commercialization phase with a sustainability attribute.”


Raya Makawi is leading the sustainability efforts in the Middle East and Africa with active ESG programs implementation in more than 10 countries co-leading COP27 & COP28. She has been nominated as one of the 2023 Middle East’s most inspirational women in leadership by the House of Rose Professional organization. Joining 3M in 2012, Raya has more than 10 years of experience in Innovation, Quality Management and Product Stewardship. Raya has been the champion for special projects in 3M including the Abu Dhabi WorldSkills in 2017; the Women’s Leadership Forum – Gulf Chapter for 2018/2019 and a steering committee member for the Technical Women’s Leadership Forum – EMEA 2021/2023. She is appointed the EMEA Technical Women in Leadership Co-Chair for 2024-2025. Raya is representing 3M MEA in the UNGC accelerators for Climate Action and Target Gender Equality. Raya holds a master’s degree in Strategic Marketing from the University of Wollongong in Dubai.

In the Media: July 20232023 Middle East’s most inspirational women in leadership | House of Rose Professional Dec 2020MEA Sustainability was featured in Forbes Middle East:

Raya Makawki

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  1. 3M Sustainability

  2. Malala Fund

  3. Svante

  4. The Ethical Futurists Book Club

  5. Book James and Alison as Speakers

00:00 Introduction
02:37 Raya Makawi’s Background and Achievements
05:10 Importance of Education and Stakeholder Engagement
08:48 3M’s Sustainability Initiatives
12:11 The Role of Science and Technology in Decarbonization
15:03 Circular Economy and Responsible Manufacturing
18:45 Sustainability Value Commitment and Innovation
22:26 Future Generations and Sustainable Leadership
25:45 Conclusion and Contact Information

TEF002 Raya Makawi FINAL FINAL AUDIO.txt
James Taylor 0:00
Hi, I’m James Taylor. And I’m Alison Burns. And together we are The Ethical Futurists. Now, you’re listening to The Ethical Futurists podcast where we dive in to the world of sustainability, ethics, and why these ideas today are more important than ever, ever before. Now, join us as we engage with leading thinkers, with business leaders, with academics, with entrepreneurs with investors, and changemakers. To uncover the latest ideas shaping a more ethical and sustainable future. We’re going to be covering a lot of different things in this podcast as well.

Alison Burns 0:41
Indeed, from sustainability, innovation to future trends and ESG. Our conversations

James Taylor 0:48
span a wide array of topics, including renewable energy, we’re going to be looking at Clean Tech, ethical investing,

Alison Burns 0:56
food systems, and much more. Yep,

James Taylor 0:59
in each episode, we explore really crucial issues such as carbon emissions, the circular economy. We’re going to be talking about rewilding net zero carbon goals and the future of food and energy something else and I are really passionate about.

Alison Burns 1:16
So whether you’re interested in lab grown meat, alternative proteins, sustainable finance, or climate related risk, we’ve got you covered.

James Taylor 1:27
Raya Makawi is leading the sustainability efforts in the Middle East and Africa with active ESG programs implementation in more than 10 countries, co leading COP27 and COP28. She has been nominated as one of the 2023 Middle East most inspirational women and leadership by the House of Rose professional organization. Joining 3M in 2012 Raya has more than 10 years of experience in innovation, quality management and product stewardship. She has been the champion for special projects in 3M, including the Abu Dhabi WorldSkills in 2017, the Women’s Leadership Forum Gulf chapter, and was a steering committee member for the technical Women’s Leadership Forum EMEA 2021 2023. She was recently appointed the EMEA technical women in leadership co chair for 2024 25. And re also represents 3M EMEA in the UN GC accelerators for climate action, and target gender equality. She holds a master’s degree in Strategic Marketing from the University of Wollongong in Dubai. And it is our great pleasure to have ray with you on the show of The Ethical Futurists today. Welcome, welcome.

Raya Makawi 2:37
Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. Thank you for this great introduction. Well,

James Taylor 2:41
what is going on in your world because we were just talking before we came on, you’re a very, very busy lady. So tell me what’s got your focus at the moment. Thank

Speaker 1 2:48
you so much, hopefully, I will be busy, productive. So what we are busy in now, the Global Earth Day, however, 3M has extended the day to be a full week. So starting Monday, we will have a full Earth Week. Now, the importance if I would say, and the beauty of extending it to one week, you will ensure that the message you are conveying to stakeholders is very important, and it will be taken gradually. Now, for example, we strongly believe in stakeholder engagement, whether we talk internally with our employees or externally with our customers. So we run educational and awareness sessions, which is always important education is core when we talk about sustainability. So we work them on how we drive our actions and strategies within our sustainability or strategic sustainability framework. Now from one side talking about circularity, climate and social, what will it tell us internally, that employees will have that trust, and we will build that culture of trust, loyalty, as well as the sense of belonging, you work for companies that doing good, taking it to work to customers, it always starts from within sustainability comes from inside out. So we take it to our customers with all that understanding of what we do and sustainability. Again, we have something very important we work with customers. It’s called it’s called customer inspired innovation. So the closer we are to them, the closer we are to their sustainability goals. We are science company, how can we help you achieve your sustainability goals and ESG targets that will be very important for us and they they deserve maybe being updated on all the achievements the progress we have done within our goals that will help them that will bring us also the peace of suppliers. You cannot work on science based innovations without ensuring that your raw materials that have been outsourced also fit in. So you would see it’s a full approach within our stakeholders. That’s why It will require maybe a week, then we talk about the products that we have come up with, in line with our targets that we have set.

Alison Burns 5:10
That’s great. And I love that you’ve extended I think Earth Day is at the 22nd of April. But actually, you’ve extended it to the whole week, which is great. So it gives a broader platform and a longer platform to get the message out. So I’m intrigued what what got you into sustainability as a as an area and what would you consider are your top accomplishments, your role 3M.

Speaker 1 5:36
Oh, thank you. So I started, as you’ve mentioned, the 2012 within r&d, the research and development department merely in the innovation center. So I’ve learned I’ve got a lot of understanding of 3M science technology, we have something also very important called the 15% culture, where employees now mainly the r&d people, but it is extended to all you can have 15% of your time dedicated to any project outside the 3M scope within your roles and responsibilities. This builds the culture of creativity, and three, and will provide you with all the required tools to build on your idea. Now it is, if it makes sense to the company, again, from an impact perspective and profit perspective, they will invest into as simple as our very well known post it notes. This comes from the 15% culture. So I’ve learned a lot I would say within innovation, I have been engaged a lot with with customers leading the innovation story. Now in 2020, when three Middle East and Africa region has created our corporate efforts organization, there is one if we say pillar for sustainability. So I have been chosen to take this and of course, during the eight years between 2012 to 2020, I’ve led a couple of sustainability related programs. As you have mentioned, the James within our STEM education, whether it is diversity, equity and inclusion where women leadership forum falls within global 3M engagement on a local activation, like the Abu Dhabi workers, that all have been picked by the management and if I may refer here, when you have true leadership, and they see potential in your capabilities and offer you this opportunity. So that was given to me in 2020, and may be referring that it was the year of the COVID 19 pandemic,

James Taylor 7:34
you can forget who can forget?

Raya Makawi 7:38
And what does it tell us that great opportunities do come along with the toughest may be times and challenges that we go through. So we always need to keep that hope, but how to keep it with readiness and preparation. I don’t think if I will be sitting home, they will pick me up for sustainability role. But building all that trust with the management, and also showing the impact that I was working on. Some were part of my role. Other were volunteering work that I was doing for the social programs, if I may say. So that has been recognized. And now I have really appreciated the supervisors who have selected me for that.

James Taylor 8:19
And also I’m picking up here we were speaking before we came on camera, about your background also had being a teacher as well. And so I’m picking up on the power of education, and you talk about leadership and and inspiring and motivate and finding that potential within other people as well to help them explore their creativity, which obviously then hopefully can lead to innovation in the case of a business case.

Speaker 1 8:39
Yeah, 100%. And you’ve asked me, of course, on the three maybe top achievements, you will always see me more attracted towards the STEM education. Again, because I used to be a teacher, I strongly believe in education and continuous learning. And this has made me what we need to build with the new generations. So for example, one of the really the good achievements that I I really, I feel proud of our partnership with Malala Fund in Pakistan, where we contributed to enabling for when we were part of enabling the 400,000 students in education. And here we don’t talk about one program that have been given to them or one session, it is an a full enrollment till they are till they graduate. Majority are girls. And this takes us back to how important quality education and equity in education, we want to make sure that we have that fair approach towards all the programs that we run. So that for me is really important that I was so happy being part of this, this program. Maybe also I will refer something related to governance specially that the region hosted here the Conference of Parties, cop 27 in Egypt and last year cop 28 in UAE now This is something makes me proud as an Arab to see two Arab countries, maybe leveraging, if I may say how we approach our approach towards climate action and climate change, especially that UAE cop has been marked as being the historic one, and now is leading on the Troika, the, the presidencies, which is, again, important message around meaningful collaboration, partnership, the collective action that we need towards serious issues. Now the last one, if I may, on the three main ones, it’s personal slash corporate, 3M has something called 3M, Global Impact Program, where they select employees to serve on ESG program on a different region from where they are based in. So my, the country that I have served in it was Argentina. So I’ve gone all the way to Argentina, to work with an NGO on net triple impact. They were helping women recycling material by creating or repurposing products, and they want to increase the economical scale. So it was a great program. If you look deeper into it, it’s not only a normal program, the way you see diversity, at its best, working with nine colleagues I’ve never met, maybe not even virtually, I knew them. We come from different backgrounds, that takes us that diversity is not only about language, cuisine, or, or the way you are dressed, or sometimes they link it to culture, it’s much, much more exact about our mindsets about our behaviors, about our backgrounds, how we react to certain situation, we are all in a country that is new to us. Again, it adds more on the diversity, how your inclusive mindset will work at that time, with a short period of two weeks. So here where you bring back all your values and principles, to handle and to be rooted to the purpose, why we are there. So it was also amazing, exceptional experience.

James Taylor 12:11
And so I’m going to pull on this idea of you the teacher, right the teacher as well. So during this this season, season one, we’ve been learning a lot about carbon capture. The other guests on talking about carbon capture 3M. And Svante, I believe recently had a new collaboration around direct air capture. So explain for us, how does a material sciences company how does that relate to carbon capture and direct air capture?

Speaker 1 12:39
This is important now 3M is a science based company, we are purpose driven. So when you when you link them together, you will always think of solutions that will solve a problem. So this what happens with the carbon capture, now we see the world going towards Net Zero. Very important, great to have and good to see all these efforts, however, how to help them, you cannot have a switch by day and night. And here is also an important point around the speed in transition. So you need to take gradually, especially within sustainability. So to move to net zero, let’s stop by decarbonisation. So 3M came up with a filtration technology or working on a filtration technology, as you have mentioned with Svante to help decarbonize certain industries. Now, other industries, like for example, still industrial might not be easy to decarbonize through the direct air capture. So we help them through green hydrogen technology that we also work on to help have more efficient cost effective production of green hydrogen. So that takes us back to importance of science, importance of technology and partnerships. We need, again, to strengthen the importance of collaboration. If we are going towards a climate action. We cannot no company can do it on its own.

James Taylor 14:04
So we started like curiosity, thinking about what is the problem we’re trying to solve? And then there’s a range of maybe different technologies and in building that collaboration of the partners to help and to innovate our level. What was the phrase you mentioned earlier customer innovation inspired customer inspiring? I love that I’m gonna I’m definitely gonna use that in the future. Are

Alison Burns 14:21
you looking to secure a keynote speaker who’s well versed in sustainability ESG or any of the engaging topics featured on the ethical features podcast? Well, look no further connect with the experts at many speakers. To book your ideal speaker today. Just

James Taylor 14:41
go to mena-speakers.com That’s mena-speakers.com. Alternatively, you can drop them an email at [email protected] to book the perfect speaker for your next event. And

Alison Burns 14:57
another area of three and when you put in Argentina with that was that with 3M? Yes. Yeah, that was so that was part of the science for circular program. Was that part of that order that inspired it? Or?

Raya Makawi 15:07
Thank you so much for linking to the sustainability framework? In fact, it’s a science for community.

Alison Burns 15:13
Oh, I see. Right. So

James Taylor 15:15
the three areas exactly

Raya Makawi 15:17
science for circular science for climate sighs for community Oh, so you will see in our size for community there is a goal of donating 300,000 skills based volunteering hours through employees, how do you do them, we have local programs, we have regional programs, and we have global, the global one is the three impact global program. Great.

Alison Burns 15:39
And so, tell us more about the circular economy and how you can see the opportunities there in relation to the work of 3M.

Speaker 1 15:48
Now, if we define it 3M says you do more with less material, this is how we drive on circular economy. So how we do it again, we start internally. So we look into our operations, the the energy consumption, water efficiency, the waste, waste, of course to landfill. So we look into these areas. So you will see certain goals that we have set and our global impact report that has been just launched, it shows great achievements, that that we have in many goals, we have even exceeded the goal. Now these goals have been set, let’s say 2015 to be delivered on 2025 Many of them have been already delivered all over achieving, if we would say I take the 2025 as our deadline, then we have built on that. So after let’s say in an in the plastic area where we want to reduce on our virgin fossil based plastic in 2021, we set our very first goal that we want to reduce our dependence on the Virgin fossil based plastic by 120 5 million pounds. So you see us having non PVC PVC packaging, and this is very obvious because it starts with our consumer business. Now, you also want to build on that what we do now for for our operations, whether we talk about the scope one we talk about scope two, and later on the scope three that will take us to the science for climate. So you start with the circularity with the material you work on raw materials is very important, as I mentioned that we work with suppliers. So you will see us having a three and supplier code, they need to commit and comply with the 3M requirements in outsourcing. And you will see an important environmental clauses that have been listed in this supplier code. So here’s how you control your operations. When you have a full approach within your operations, suppliers customers, this is really in relation to circularity, because we still have more for climate more for social.

James Taylor 18:00
Now, Alice and I were really we speak about creativity and innovation a lot to a lot of different companies and go keynote on that topic. And think about 3M 3M as a company I just think of when I think of pioneering I think innovation is one of those kinds of companies. And we obviously think about the post it notes we’ve mentioned earlier as well obviously can’t came from 3M. But one of the things I was reading about with 3M and this kind of links to what we’ve been talking about which had links, bridges like creativity, innovation, and sustainability is something that you have, which I don’t see many companies really doing at this level, and it’s used called the sustainability value commitment. Can you explain what that is and how that helps in what we’ve been talking about today.

Raya Makawi 18:45
Now, early 2019 and post cop 24 Three announced its sustainability value commitment. Now, what does it mean? It means every new product enters the commercialization phase will have a sustainability attribute. Now here as a manufacturing company, we talk about more than 1000 products the company produced every year. So, after 2019 Every product will have a sustainability value. And having now this commitment, every new product should help you solve a certain problem, whether it is an environmental problem or social problem, how do we implement the sustainability attribute? This takes us back to circularity, maybe with it through our responsible manufacturing. Maybe this product requires less water in producing less energy, it produces less to less weight, less waste, sorry, or it might might be using a recycled material. So that all starts from circularity, or the product might help you solve an environmental issue that goes with our climate. It will help you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. It It might help you also to grow, reduce your carbon footprint and other areas that has to do with climate, or it will help people improving for example, air quality help in your health and safety. So this is the attribute that you can see within within our products. Now what does it require? Of course, we have revisited our sustainability goals to add new goals like the plastic one I have mentioned, it was launched, or we committed to in 2021. So it came two years after our SBC announcement, and we are continue on building on our goals within sustainability value commitment. Now, just taking you back a little bit with our 15% culture of innovation, if you spend 15% of your time, and you ensure sustainability is embedded into innovation, you will come up also with great solutions. Like nowadays, we refer to our now we considered now the superstar products we all refer referred to it’s the Scotch cushion locker protective wrap. So it will replace the plastic bubble wrap. And if you can, as a consumer, we are we find this plastic bubble wrap is very convenient. And we know how to use it, how does it protect, we know everything about it. So to come up with a non PVC protective wrap, which is from recycled materials, 100% and recyclable. Looks like a paper, then as you open it and wrap it becomes the 3d configuration. So you protect you have the same if we would say, purpose that you want it from the other promise, you want it from the product, but it is a sustainable material.

Alison Burns 21:49
100% circular. Wonderful.

James Taylor 21:51
So we’re gonna start to finish up here as well. Alison, Oh,

Alison Burns 21:56
yes. This is my last question. I think my last question. In the world that we all know sustainability is your key thing. And it’s and I can see that it drives you and every decision. We want to put through that ethical filter when we’re making those consumer choices. But what do you see what do you envisage as an ethical and sustainable future so that we have a planet that we’re proud to leave to future generations?

Raya Makawi 22:26
Yeah, thank you, this is very important, because the engagement of youth is nowadays is key. However, do they know what they need to do. So, knowledge will come at a very important area, they need to learn, they need to be equipped with the accurate information that will help them they need also to invest in their time to know more about the ESG if they want to be in sustainability. Now secondly, they will require certain skill set. So if you want only to communicate the message of sustainability or you want to influence to inspire, you might need certain or even to convince the C suite level to invest in sustainability, you need certain skills that is required, like Negotiation Communication presentation, however, you want to be specialized in certain areas within ESG, maybe we will start for example, with an engineering background, then you will require analytical skills and different types of skills. Now, if I will also put knowledge and skill to a very important base, which are values and principles, because if you look at it, what is sustainability is living responsibly and with purpose. So you need to be rooted to values. Unfortunately, what I can see from the new generations, and with the openness, we have it in in the world, the globalization, they forgot their identity, we need to be rooted to that identity, this is power, this will help them really lead with purpose, then we want to be routed to have ethical business. Again, you might meet all your KPIs, all your goals, but you don’t add any value, you don’t have the intended impact, to create that difference. So we need the new generation really to be rooted values, principles built on it, live with purpose, that will even help you as leaders to increase if we will say the level of consistency as you go on. So even your level of care, transparency, these are all important, and these are all values. So this is very important to the new generation. And last we want them please to believe in continuous education, no one no, it’s all continuous and have also an open, curious mindset. The more you learn, the more you experience, the more you know if this thinks works or not. So I wish them all the best because they will lead the change. This is what you usually say. We help you behave this way. But you will If the climate action so please be strongly engaged so

James Taylor 25:03
hopefully this conversation has sparked your curiosity if you’re listening watching this just now, where can people go to learn more about the work of three M the work around using around sustainability and maybe to connect with with you as well. For three

Speaker 1 25:16
our website, 3M.com, especially that we launched our Global Impact Report, I really invite and encourage everyone to go through it. And to enjoy if I would say the impact you want to see in the world. For me, I’m reachable through LinkedIn. Raya Makawi, you will, you will see my, my profile. And thank you so much for having me. Well, it has been indeed a pleasure,

James Taylor 25:45
Raya Makawi. It’s been our pleasure having you as a guest today on The Ethical Futurist podcast. Thanks so much for coming on. Thank you so much. If you’re considering making sustainability or ESG, one of the themes for your next conference, your event, or perhaps a company retreat, then why not invite Alison and myself to be your keynote speakers or event MCs. We’ve delivered really inspiring keynote programs for some of the world’s largest organizations from all different kinds of industries. Now, The Ethical Futurists keynote will take your audience on a journey to discover how the world’s most ethical and sustainable companies are really innovating in their industries. So if you’d like to learn more about booking Alison and I as The Ethical Futurists for your next event, then simply head to TheEthicalFuturists.com/speaking plus the theethicalfuturists.com/speaking To schedule a call to discuss with us your next event. We’re delighted that you listen to this podcast and we’d really thank you if you could just take a moment now to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast platform. Also, while you’re there, why don’t give us a five star rating and leave us a review. It would really mean a lot to Alison and I so for me, James Taylor,

Alison Burns 27:08
and we Alison burns.

James Taylor 27:09
Thanks for listening to The Ethical Futurists podcast.