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
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.
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