3M plans on investing $50 million to bolster racial equity over the next five years, including through scholarships and donations to community groups.

Also, Maplewood-based 3M on Tuesday announced that its sales rose 2% in August, buoyed by a strong performance in its health care sector. The worldwide economic slowdown, though, continued to affect its stalwart safety and industrial business.

3M's racial equity initiative entails $10 million in spending over each of the next five years.

"We plan to invest locally in the Twin Cities because we believe we have responsibility as a corporate leader," said Garfield Bowen, 3M's director of social justice strategy and initiatives, a position created in August.

3M's initiative, like those at some other big Minnesota companies, comes after a nationwide racial justice protests spurred initially by George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Bowen noted one expected outcome of 3M programs would be to boost equity in society and directly at the company. Some students would receive science scholarships, and then be mentored by 3M employees while in school and get internships at the company, all with the idea of eventually working at 3M.

3M's first investments will include $5 million toward the United Negro College Fund's scholarship and student support program for students in St. Paul — specifically for science, technology, engineering and math education.

The company also will expand its 3M Manufacturing & Academic Partnerships program in the St. Paul Public Schools.

And 3M will invest $1 million annually over the next five years in local social justice partnerships. This year, four grants of $250,000 each will go to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Neighborhood Justice Center; Penumbra Center for Racial Healing; and YWCA St. Paul.

On the financial front, 3M on Tuesday announced August sales of $2.7 billion, up 2% over a year ago and continuing a rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the company hard this year. 3M has been releasing monthly sales updates since this spring.

Organic sales, which include volume impacts and selling-price changes, declined 2%. But acquisitions, net of divestitures and foreign currency effects affected sales positively, increasing them 3% and 1%, respectively.

3M sales for August 2020 were affected by one fewer business day, contributing a negative impact of 5% year-on-year.

August sales rose 23% in 3M's health care segment, which has experienced a COVID-induced boost in sales of personal protective equipment.

3M's safety and industrial sector saw a 6% gain in sales, while its consumer unit posted a 3% increase. Weakness continued in the company's transportation and electronics business, with sales falling 11%.

On a geographic basis, sales rose in the Americas and Europe and the Middle East, but fell in Asia.

3M estimates that its third-quarter sales will range from $8.2 billion to $8.3 billion, above the consensus estimate of $8.11 billion, according to Seeking Alpha, a financial news and analysis website.

3M's stock price closed down just over 1% in Tuesday trading.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003