Water is essential to Kimberly-Clark’s operations and a major input into our tissue manufacturing processes. Mounting pressures, including overconsumption due to rapid population growth, water source contamination, and worsening droughts due to climate change, have led to water scarcity in many regions of the world, including in some where Kimberly-Clark has operations. These issues can jeopardize access to sufficient water supplies and may lead to mandated water restrictions. In addition to the concerns that water insecurity raises to people and communities, risks to Kimberly-Clark could include operational disruptions, and increased operating costs from rising water prices and the need for further treatment processes. However, if water is carefully managed by all stakeholders who depend on a watershed, , can we help mitigate these risks and continue provide consumers with essential products they depend upon every day. These efforts also allow us to contribute to the objectives of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, Clean Water and Sanitation.
Our 2030 ambition is to reduce our operational water footprint by 50% versus 2015 at Kimberly-Clark manufacturing sites located in areas experiencing water stress.1 In addition, our goal challenges us to support the local communities surrounding these mills, who face water stress and may need improved access to clean, fresh water.
Learn more about our water goals and progress in our 2022 Global Sustainability Report
’Kimberly-Clark'st strategy challenges us to mitigate water risk at our facilities by reducing water consumption and optimizing wastewater treatment before it is returned to the environment. Our teams apply techniques and tools through (1) Lean Water and (2) Water Stewardship approaches to operationalize this strategy.
In the intermediate-term, we will continue focusing on achieving sustainable water use at Kimberly-Clark manufacturing facilities in water-stressed regions, prioritizing the most severely impacted regions and focusing on those aspects of our operations that are the most water-intensive.
A culture focused on water conservation and water quality in our manufacturing operations gives ownership and responsibility to facility employees to manage water with a similar priority level as safety, quality, delivery, and cost.
We drive continuous improvement in water management systems at each of our manufacturing facilities through investments in metering, dashboarding, and real-time visual management tools that enable our team members to manage water use more efficiently.
We track overall water use efficiency (m3/MT of production) for all Kimberly-Clark industrial sites, as well as water use at industrial facilities located in water-stressed regions (m3). This is critical to understanding our water use and identifying and prioritizing where to take action.
We maintain a holistic approach to water that focuses not just on our own facilities, but on creating greater water security for the entire water basin in which those facilities are located.
Because successfully reducing water stress requires a community effort, we helped develop a private-public methodology that seeks to engage local businesses, government, and NGOs to review scientific assessments of the watershed's specific challenges, share best practices and approaches, and implement solutions that drive economic, social, and environmental value.
Since 2017, Kimberly-Clark has been working with Deltares, an independent water research organization, to expand WaterLOUPE, a tool that can visualize water scarcity risks due to climate change, population growth, and other factors over a 30-year timeframe. Local stakeholders, including municipalities, communities, businesses, and NGOs, can use these insights to identify potential solutions for conserving freshwater supplies and reducing the risk of water shortages.
See highlights of Kimberly-Clark's 2022 water use and stewardship efforts here.
See our water data here.
Effective as of May 2023
1“Water stress” refers to the ability, or lack thereof, to meet human and ecological demand for water. Compared to scarcity, water stress is a more inclusive and broader concept. It considers several physical aspects related to water resources, including water scarcity, but also water quality, environmental flows, and the accessibility of water. We use the World Resources Institute Aqueduct water tool to identify the regions of water stress. Further work with local internal Kimberly-Clark stakeholders is carried out to identify any additional site risk factors. Together this is used to identify if a facility is considered to be in a water stressed region.