Beyond The Wall & Into The Watershed

By Ting He, Qi Zhang, Zhenzhen Xu 18 June, 2019

Ecolab's He, Nestlé's Zhang & AWS' Xu presents the next level of corporate water management

Many co's are improving water system efficiency & reducing water use; but they can do more by looking beyond their factory walls & work with other stakeholders to manage their shared watershed
Ecolab & Nestlé are frontrunners on this: from setting up a systematic water management approach for protecting Taihu basin to achieving AWS standard certification in 15 drinking water factories
To help more co's get to this level, AWS launched a new standard on World Water Day 2019, which draws on the old standard’s experience from the past few years & focuses on knowledge sharing

This article is a shortened version of a World Water Day publication in the Chinese newspaper Yicai. See the full publication here.


Corporate citizenship is increasingly changing the way of water resource management. Through technological innovation, companies are improving the efficiency of water systems and reducing total water consumption while also reducing costs.

For instance, Ecolab is supporting corporate water management by reviewing enterprise water management practices and effectively treating industrial wastewater through the 3R principle (reduction, recycling and reuse). In particular, their 3D TRASARTM technology monitors water quality data, and helps companies understand the ecosystem’s ecological processes through expert analysis, interpretation, and development of customized solutions.

At the moment, basin water stewardship exceeds the requirements of current regulations…

…but some enterprises are making headway regardless

However, while these actions are important, companies can go further by looking beyond their own factory walls and work with other stakeholders to manage their shared watershed. At the moment, such basin water stewardship exceeds the requirements of current regulations, but some companies are making headway regardless. Below we look at how Ecolab and Nestlé are leading watershed management in China by adopting the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s (AWS) certification.

Ecolab’s Taicang plant was first in the world to receive AWS certification

As one of the founding partners of AWS, Ecolab was the first company to implement the International Sustainable Water Management Standard. In September 2015, its production base in Taicang also became the first factory in the world to receive AWS certification.

Established in 2012, the Taicang plant is Ecolab’s largest production base in the Asia Pacific region. The plant, located within the Taihu Basin in the lower Yangtze, produces a wide range of products covering cleaning, hygiene, food safety and infection prevention solutions. Its target customers includes catering, food retail, hotels, healthcare, dairy products, meat processing and more.

Ecolab first established a systematic water management approach…

Given the sensitivity of the Taihu basin, Ecolab collaborated with WWF to conduct on-site testing at Taicang plant and establish a systematic water management approach. This included reducing the amount of water used by equipment as well as cooperating with other water users and stakeholders in the shared watershed such as local government agencies.

…then additionally, Ecolab influenced external stakeholders through seminars & conferences to jointly protect the river basin

Through the implementation of these water-saving projects, freshwater consumption was reduced by 51% from 2013 to 2015. In 2014, the total amount of water saved by stakeholders was 89,400 tonnes. In addition, Ecolab actively influenced external stakeholders through the Enterprise Water Management Pioneer Standard Test Seminar and the Taicang Park Enterprise Exchange Conference to jointly protect the river basin and reduce its water risks.

Attaining the AWS benchmark has not only set a milestone for Ecolab, it has also become an outstanding model in water management for other Chinese companies.

Nestlé – from water treatment to going beyond its own factory walls

It’s not just Ecolab. Nestlé has made the sustainable use of water resources and continuous improvement of water management one of its business principles. To date, Nestlé’s Waters’ has achieved AWS standard certification in 15 of its factories in eight countries, and Nestlé Waters’ future goal is to have all of its plants certified by 2025.

Nestlé’s Waters’ has achieved AWS standard certification in 15 of its factories in 8 countries…

…future goal: all of its plants certified by 2025

Among its AWS-certified factories, Nestlé’s Dashan water factory was awarded AWS Gold certification in October last year, which made Nestle the first company in China’s food and beverage industry to receive such an honour. As a long-term partner of Nestlé, Ecolab was also involved in the water management of the Dashan factory – the use of non-phosphorus chemicals has helped Dashan factory reduce pollution directly from the source.

Located in rural Yunnan Province, Dashan factory’s local aquifer is highly susceptible to seasonal rainfall changes and any excessive water use has a direct impact on all local water users. After the acquisition of Dashan, Nestlé responded to the most pressing water challenges by implementing a range of proven water solutions – from its own factory’s water treatment to shared watershed management.

From a water treatment perspective, the Dashan plant launched the water-saving improvement project for its HOD (5g or 18.9L bottles) production line in 2017, including optimising the filling system of the HOD production line, as well as the bottle cleaning process. Ultimately, the production line achieved an 8% improvement in water efficiency, which in turn increased the overall water efficiency of the factory by 2%. The team also continued to strengthen well management to ensure the water intake of the factory stays below the allowed limit. At present, the water consumption of the factory has been reduced by at least 20% compared to 2016.

Beyond its factory walls, Dashan factory is proactively engaging with local govts, communities & suppliers in the watershed

Moreover, as a partner of Dashan factory, Ecolab introduced a comprehensive 12-steps process in chemical management including “collecting, purification, filtration, canning, labeling, cleaning and testing”. These steps help reduce the burden of sewage treatment and pollutant emissions and optimise the use of water resources.

Beyond its own factory walls, Dashan factory is also proactively engaging with various stakeholder groups, including local governments, local communities and suppliers in the watershed through the following activities:

  • Promote public education to increase awareness in water conservation
  • Provide job opportunities
  • Improve water quality
  • Offer reasonable price of HOD water

What’s more, by encouraging suppliers and outsourcers to improve water management performance, Dashan factory is helping them to identify water-related legal and regulatory requirements, develop and implement sustainable water management improvement programs, and drive more companies to join the ranks of water conservation.

AWS launches new standards to help move away from just “post-sewage treatment”  

Ecolab and Nestlé are not alone. Other industry-leading companies in China such as Yuhua Technology, Jialianyi and Huaxin Group have all obtained the AWS international standard certification. And on World Water Day 2019, AWS also launched a new standard (version 2.0). This new version draws on the old standard’s experience from the past few years, and was finally released after two years of development and consultation.

New AWS standard 2.0 draws on the old standard’s experience from the past few years

Adrian Sym, CEO of the International Sustainable Water Management Alliance is one advocate of the new standard – “In order to achieve the sustainable development goal of ensuring safe and clean water for all by 2030, the community still needs to step up. Through the new AWS standards, we hope to promote more commercial organizations to join the field of providing safe water and sanitation, and contribute to the sustainable management of global freshwater resources.”

A big component of the AWS new standard is knowledge sharing…

…again Ecolab & Nestlé are frontrunners

A big component of the AWS new standard is knowledge sharing, which helps companies reach beyond their walls and lead sustainable, inclusive water management. Again Ecolab and Nestlé are frontrunners. For instance, Nestlé Waters held sharing sessions at nearly all its sites around the world with the theme of ‘Leave no one behind’ to celebrate World Water Day. Nestlé Waters also launched “20 Questions About Water”: a series of thought-provoking videos featuring questions from people across four continents and answers from global water experts.

Meanwhile, Ecolab collaborated with Wine To Water, a non-profit organization committed to supporting life and dignity for all through the power of clean water, to celebrate World Water Day. Around 850 Ecolab employees from eight countries gathered to assemble 1700 water filters, each of which can provide safe drinking water for ten people for ten years. After the event, Ecolab will distribute the filters around the world for natural disaster relief.

All these point to a growing trend from “post-sewage treatment” to “sustainable water management in the watersheds”, which is key to solving our water challenges and the success of Ecolab and Nestlé sets a good example for other companies to follow.


Further Reading

  • 2018 State Of Ecology & Environment Report Review – It is one year on since the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) reform, has it impacted China’s water? What has worsened & what has improved? We review the latest 2018 report
  • UAVs To Monitor Ship Emissions – Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s a drone! Dr Zhi Ning from HKUST expands on their method to detect ship emissions & help check compliance
  • Jiangsu Chemical Park Explosion: Rectify Or Shutdown? – The Jiangsu chemical plant explosion may have been deadly but the environmental & regulatory risks it’s bringing to light may be more worrying. China Water Risk’s Yuanchao Xu unpacks it for us
  • Your Inside Track To Rare Earths – Do China’s threats to weaponise rare earths in the trade war have any teeth? Even if not, a house of cards worth trillions could be at stake – find out why & get the edge now
  • Eco-preneurs To Combat Pollution – What are “eco-preneurs”? The Ministry of Ecology & Environment’s Dr Zhanfeng Dong explains & elaborates on their role as a lynchpin in winning China’s war on pollution
  • Connecting A New Generation Of Businesses To Water Stewardship – The CEO Water Mandate updated its Water Stewardship Toolbox. Their Peter Schulte shares how it now better connects companies to useful water stewardship resources, including tailored filters based on individual risks & needs
  • Water Stewardship: The Bright Dairy & Food Case – Chinese dairy mega company, Bright Dairy & Food, successfully used water footprint assessments to better water stewardship. Tongji University’s Hongtao Wang and Jin Xu along with WWF China’s Aihui Yang guide us through the case study
  • Dell’s Water Stewardship – Dell is not only reducing water use in its supply chain but also managing water as a shared resource at a watershed level through water stewardship. Find out more from their Jason Ho
  • Upgraded Water Risk Filter: From Assessment To Response – WWF’s Water Risk Filter has been upgraded, from expanded data sets & climate change projections to new response & valuation sections. Their Ariane Laporte-Bisquit highlights everything new
  • Water Stewardship In Industrial Parks: The Kunshan Case – Kunshan City ranked as China’s most developed county-level city but faces increasingly serious water challenges. Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Zhenzhen Xu, WWF’s Aihui Yang & Qiandeng Environmental Protection Bureau’s Dadi Feng share experiences from their water stewardship project
  • Developing A Global Water Stewardship System – Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Zhenzhen Xu, Ma Xi & Michael Spencer introduce the first ever global water stewardship standard and share lessons learnt from Ecolab’s pilot at their Taicang China chemical plant

Ting He
Author: Ting He
He Ting is now the Corporate Communications Manager of Ecolab Great China with a demonstrated history of working in the B2B industry. Ting got the bachelor degree of Environmental Science in JiaoTong University in 2007 and gain strong media and communication professional with a Master focused in Business Administration from Carleton University. Ecolab (ECL) is the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources. With annual sales of $15 billion and 49,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions, data-driven insights and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use, and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world.
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Qi Zhang
Author: Qi Zhang
Zhang Qi is Head of Public Affairs of Nestlé (China) Ltd., whosekey responsibility is to implement and communicate CreatingShared Value through flagship initiatives and stakeholderengagement. He has been working for Nestlé for over 24 yearsstarting as refrigeration engineer. From 2005, he spent 13 yearsin managing Safety, Health and Environmental Sustainability bothin Nestlé China and at Nestlé global headquarters in Switzerland.He was appointed to the current position since July 2018.
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Zhenzhen Xu
Author: Zhenzhen Xu
Zhenzhen leads CWR’s stewardship initiatives which focus on rolling out the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s (AWS) International Water Stewardship Standard across Asia Pacific. She has more than 10 years of experience in the field of industrial water solutions, corporate water stewardship and sustainable financing. Previously, Zhenzhen was based in Shanghai, where she established AWS China, heading a team to design and implement on-ground water stewardship programmes for leading MNCs, global brands, Chinese corporations as well as industrial parks and even university campuses. There, she worked closely with multi-stakeholders in critical regions such as the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas as well as the Bohai Bay Area. Her time spent with businesses, local governments and NGOs to enhance catchment management through strategy & operational roundtables, trainings and site pilots provides valuable insights to managing basin risks. Zhenzhen also advises them on policy interventions and market incentives to build sustainable and holistic models to protect watersheds. Prior to this, she worked for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), co-leading their China Water Program; Veolia Water and Sogreah Consultancy. She holds a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering from Tongji University and a Master of Environmental Management and Development from the Australian National University.
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