3M recently announced it is joining the Water Resilience Coalition (WRC), advancing its commitment to help the nearly two billion people worldwide living in water-stressed and water-scarce communities. By joining the WRC leadership committee and endorsing the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, 3M reports that it will be working to preserve the world’s freshwater resources and achieve a net positive water impact.

“3M is proactively applying our science and innovation to improve the water supply used in our operations and the communities we serve,” said Mike Roman, 3M CEO. “We are committed to sharing our expertise on global water solutions, and our participation in the WRC will expand and amplify our efforts.”

“3M’s expertise in science and creative solutions finds a significant space of opportunity in the CEO Water Mandate,” said Jason Morrison, president of the Pacific Institute and head of the CEO Water Mandate. “Additionally, by being a part of the leadership committee of the Water Resilience Coalition they also join a leading platform on water for businesses that are elevating their ambition and accelerating results through collective action on water.”

In 2020, 3M’s annual evaluation identified 16 facilities in extremely high water-stressed/scarce global locations, including locations in France, India, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, and the U.S. After the assessment, work began to understand current baselines and onboarding for those new sites, continuing into the first half of 2021. For example, the company began working with the Juarez (Mexico) City Water Department in 2016 to receive treated wastewater for on-site services. In 2017, 80% of total water consumed in three out of five buildings was treated or recycled water and in 2020, the site transitioned the remaining two buildings. It expects to save 10 million liters (2.6 million gallons) of water.

Since 2015, 3M has had a goal to engage 100% of water-stressed/scarce communities where it manufactures on community-wide approaches to water management. Each 3M site located in a water-stressed area is required to understand its water use, as well as associated business risks and impacts, and must work with local water resources to understand potential impacts on the surrounding area. Those sites are also asked to do water conservation planning, outlining current and future water conservation efforts.

3M reports that it is also taking steps to reduce water use and improve water quality through the installation of technologies at key manufacturing sites worldwide. For example, 3M Decatur in Alabama has installed a non-contact cooling water system that connects the plant’s incoming water infrastructure to local utilities. This reduces the amount of water the plant uses from the Tennessee River by more than 95% and deepens the facility’s connection with the community where its people live and work.

The work in Decatur will reportedly advance 3M’s February 2021 commitment to reduce its water use 25% by 2030, with interim goals of 20% by 2025 and 10% by 2022—accelerating a prior goal to achieve a 10% reduction by 2025 (indexed to sales). To help identify solutions and potential barriers for water reduction, 3M employees can record and track observations within a global pollution prevention system that is accessible by engineers, developers, and managers. This broad visibility provides a deeper understanding of water use and facilitates collaboration on solutions from across the company.

As a result of ongoing water reduction efforts, 3M’s total consumption decreased 39.8% between 2005 and 2020 (indexed to sales). 

3M reports that it plans to invest $1 billion over the next 20 years to achieve its environmental goals, including a commitment to install state-of-the-art water purification technology at its largest water-using facilities by the end of 2023 and be fully operational by the end of 2024. These funds build on 3M’s allocation of approximately $55 million for capital projects for environmental purposes in 2020, which include waste reduction and pollution control programs such as water usage reduction and water quality improvement equipment, scrubbers, containment structures, solvent recovery units, and thermal oxidizers.

Learn about 3M’s water conservation initiatives and other environmental goals at www.3m.com/sustainability.