The industrial, health care, consumer and office products giant 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing) is establishing a professorship in environmental economics at MIT. The announcement was made jointly today by President Charles M. Vest and L.D. DeSimone, chairman and CEO of 3M.
Total funding for the professorship will be $4 million, with the St. Paul company giving $3 million over three years and MIT matching the first year's installment with $1 million of its own.
"This chair will greatly enhance MIT education and research in environmental and natural resource economics and the economics of sustainable development. These are key areas for MIT's future. 3M is a leader in environmentally conscious industrial practice and in sustainable development as a business philosophy. We are proud to have this increased association with 3M," President Vest said.
"We are honored to join MIT in an effort to advance understanding of environmental economics and sustainable development,"said Mr. DeSimone. "We believe this initiative will strengthen the ability to meet today's needs and, at the same time, will allow future generations to meet their needs."
Although economics has been central to environmental studies and research for years, the focus has shifted, said Henry D. Jacoby, the William F. Pounds Professor of Management at the Sloan School. Where once economic issues embedded in environmental projects could be understood and dealt with on the state or national level, they have now taken on global dimensions. With worldwide attention focused on such concerns as global warming, Third World deforestation and preservation of endangered species, he noted, the discipline of environmental economics now requires new concepts, skills and analytical tools that only a specialist can bring.
Perhaps because of the global implications of environmental economics, student demand for courses in the discipline has been high, Professor Jacoby said.
Although environmental research accounts for more than 10 percent of on-campus research or more than $40 million in grants, fellowships and other research support, MIT does not have a faculty member specializing in the area of environmental economics.
Having the field of environmental economics represented at MIT by a world-class scholar is critical, said Chancellor Bacow. "MIT is already producing a substantial amount of first-rate work in the field," and its economics faculty is "increasingly involved in exploring economic aspects of environmental issues," he said.
3M's move to help MIT focus on the field and educate students is a result of its own environmental awareness, said Mr. DeSimone. Nearly 30 years ago, the firm instituted an environmental policy and made a commitment to develop products that have a minimal effect on the environment. At the same time, the company launched the Pollution Prevention Pays (3P) Program, which since its inception in 1975 has saved $810 million for 3M and prevented 1.5 billion pounds of pollutants from contaminating the environment.
Mr. DeSimone serves with President Vest on the Advisory Board of the Alliance for Global Sustainability, founded in 1994 by MIT, the University of Tokyo and the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.
The first $1 million installment of the 3M gift was presented at MIT today. At the same time, Dr. William E. Coyne, 3M's senior vice president of research and development, presented Provost Robert A. Brown with a $150,000 contribution to the 3M Innovation Fund.
Since 1992, the Fortune 500 company has contributed $150,000 annually to the fund, which supports research projects of new MIT faculty members. To date, 16 faculty have received one-year grants for research in chemical engineering, chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, material science and engineering, and electrical engineering and computer science.
Provost Brown will appoint a scholar to the new professorship based on recommendations of the search committee. Headed by James M. Poterba, the Mitsui Professor of Economics and associate department head, the search committee includes Sloan School Dean Richard Schmalensee and Professor Jacoby.
A version of this article appeared in the May 5, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 29).