Water Stewardship: The Bright Dairy & Food Case

By Aihui Yang, Hongtao Wang, Jin Xu 18 April, 2018

Wang, Xu & Yang expand on a case study using water footprint assessments to help water stewardship in China

China is No.3 global milk producer & Bright Dairy & Food is one of its largest co's but faces serious water challenges
Water footprint from Jinshan Ranch was 16,400 m3/cow: higher than others; best practices were then identified
This pilot & its standards will be exported to other ranches

The dairy industry is closely related to people’s daily lives. The production and consumption of dairy products in China are rapidly growing. Since 2015, milk production in China has ranked third in the world and in 2016, the output of dairy products in China reached 29.93 million tonnes.

Water resources are of vital importance for the dairy industry. Dairy products consume large amounts of water during their life cycle, from the growing of feedstuff, providing drinking water for cows, flushing and cooling the cowshed, treating wastewater, to the production and consumption of dairy products. On average, 10 tonnes of tap water are needed to produce per tonne of dairy products.

“Water resources are of vital importance for the dairy industry”

In addition to water quantity, water quality is equally important and sensitive for the dairy industry, which requires high quality clean water to ensure the safety and quality of the dairy products. Therefore, “safe, high-quality and reliable” water resources are crucial to the sustainable development of dairy enterprises.

Why Bright Dairy & Food?

At present, there are more than 700 dairy enterprises in China. Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd. is a diversified joint-stock company, with national and public capital. Bright Dairy’s business originated in 1911, and with 100 years of development, it has established a dairy-oriented business which includes producing and selling various dairy products.

Currently, it is one of the largest dairy companies with its own large scale intensive ranches and milk processing plants in China. Its main products contain milk, yogurt, milk powder, cheese, butter and other categories. Overall, the dairy industry is characterised by significant water consumption and great potential water risk.

>700 dairy enterprises in China…

…Bright Dairy & Food is one of the largest with its own large scale intensive ranches & milk processing plants in China


What progress have we seen?

WWF China, in cooperation with Tongji University,  assessed the water footprint of dairy products in Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd. This water footprint was found to be useful for better understanding and management of water resources. Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd, partnering with WWF, then made use of the powerful function of the Water Footprint Assessment to navigate its pilot water stewardship journey.

1. Investigation and calculation of water footprint 
The project team conducted several on-site surveys in Jinshan Ranch as well as the production workshop of Central Plant in Eastern China of Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd, which are the key areas of the Bright Dairy Supply Chain. The team communicated with the relevant staff and experts in this field. Metres were installed to monitor the water consumption in different processes. Related data was collected and analysed with statistical tools to calculate the direct and indirect water footprint of dairy products.

“The average annual water footprint of cows from the Jinshan Ranch, a large-scale ranch, was 16,400 m3/head”

For the water footprint of production in the ranches, the average annual water footprint of cows from the Jinshan Ranch, a large-scale ranch, was 16,400 m3/head while the annual average water footprint of cows from the middle-scale farm, Xingyi Ranch, was 15,300 m3/head.

For the water footprint of production in dairy plants: the average water footprints of fresh milk produced by the No. 4 Dairy Plant and Nanjing Dairy Co. Ltd (NDCL) were 1,172.80l/kg and 1,299 l/kg, respectively. The average water footprints of yogurt produced by the No. 8 Dairy Plant and the Nanjing Dairy Plant were 1,276.15 l/kg and 2,295 l/kg, respectively (From Annual Report Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd, 2014).
wastewater treatment plant & production workshop (2)
2. Assessment of water footprint
The water use efficiency in Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd was analysed and assessed. During this process, the actual situation of China’s dairy industry was also investigated and analysed.

In addition, this project team analysed the current practices of water management and policies in Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd and identified the best existing practice model of water management in Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd. It then evaluated the water footprint of its products based on this water management best practice.

These analyses helped find the key tech, methods & approaches for water conservation, pollution reduction etc.

Through these analyses, the team identified the potential and direction of reducing the water footprint and helped Bright Dairy & Food Co., Ltd to find the key technologies, methods and approaches for water metering, water conservation, energy saving and pollution reduction, laying a solid foundation for the systematic implementation of enterprise water management.

3. Standards for water footprint assessment China’s dairy industry

 Two standards for water footprint assessment to be applied to the dairy industry in China

After reviewing the international water footprint assessment standards, the team discussed with experts from the China National Institute of Standardization and other partners and drafted two standards for water footprint assessment, which are expected to be applicable to the dairy industry in China. One standard is for the ranches, and the other one is for the plants of dairy products.

The next steps….

The successful experience of Bright Dairy & Food will be compiled and recommended to other ranches and plants in China to reduce the water footprint of their products. The team is trying to formulate a formal standard for water footprint assessment methods applicable to the dairy industry in China. If this standard is recognised and issued by the government, it is expected to have positive influence on water management the in dairy industry in China.

Moreover, Bright Dairy & Food has proactively approached WWF and will fully participate in the WWF’s Water Stewardship programme. To date, Bright Dairy’s engagement with the Water Footprint Assessment has generated rich experience and insights on how a dairy company can become a good water steward and contribute to sustainable basin water resource management through understanding its facility and supply-chain water footprint and water risks, establishing company-wide water stewardship mechanism and participating in stakeholder and basin water management programmes.

Further Reading 

  • 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
  • Rising To The Water Challenge – Barclays analyst Zachary Sadow shares key findings from their report with the Columbia Water Center on how US energy companies and public utilities can help alleviate water shortages through new tech and practices
  • Barclays-Tsinghua China Water Summit: Key Takeaways – The Barclays-Tsinghua University China Water Summit brought together industry leaders, corporations, investors and academics to discuss water solutions for China and Asia. Barclays analyst Zachary Sadow recaps key views from the summit
  • Ministry Reform: 9 Dragons To 2 – What does China’s long-awaited ministry re-shuffle mean – who manages what and how? China Water Risk’s Woody Chan and Yuanchao Xu review the roles and impacts of the new Ministry of Ecological Environment & Ministry of Natural Resources
  • Eight Million: China & The Global Plastic Challenge – Sustainable Asia’s Marcy Trent Long & Sam Bekemans share their new podcast series “Eight Million”, which looks into the plastic waste pollution issue globally & in China and what is being done. China Water Risk is featured in episode 2
  • 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
  • Water Stewardship In Industrial Parks: TEDA Pilot – Industrial parks generate 22.5% of China’s GDP but can this last given water security and pollution concerns? An Chen, from the TEDA Eco Center & Zhenzhen Xu from the Alliance for Water Stewardship show how the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area leads in mitigating these risks
  • 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
  • Why Should PRD Business Lead In Water Stewardship? – With the Pearl River Delta set to lead China’s economic growth, China Water Risk’s Feng Hu & the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Zhenzhen Xu explain why business should adopt water stewardship to ensure continued prosperity
  • Water Stewardship: The Impact To Date – A new report finds there has been little evolution from business -as-usual in regards to water management. What behaviours need to change? How can this be achieved? We sat down with report authors James Dalton from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) & Peter Newborne from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
  • Innovating Water Stewardship Through Business Ecosystems – William Sarni, water stewardship expert, on the need for innovation in water strategies in order to better position for 21st Century water risks. Sarni points to “business ecosystems” as the driver for this innovation and value creation
Aihui Yang
Author: Aihui Yang
Project Manager of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) China. More than eight year project management experience, during which Yang has taken part in “HSBC Climate Partnership Programme” and “HSBC Water Programme” as a Senior Programme Manager: Play a key role in and contribute to the wetland restoration for water source protection, Shanghai Dalian Lake Mode, Work on the water resource management and wetland restoration for multi-donors such as HSBC, Ecolab, H&M and P&G; Promote to apply water footprint and water risk tools to the supply chain of Bright Dairy and the industrial park upgrade of Xixiashu Textile Park and Qiandeng Industrial Park; Organize to develop the multi-stakeholder engagement mechanism for better basin governance. In addition, Yang has plenty of work experience of financial and administrative management.
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Hongtao Wang
Author: Hongtao Wang
Hongtao Wang is an associate professor in the College of Environmental Science and Engineering of Tongji University, Shanghai, P.R. China. He has also worked for UNEP-Tongji Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development from 2009. He has conducted research for three years in Bren School of Environmental Science and Management of University of California at Santa Barbara, USA. He received his Ph.D. degree in Environmental Science from Tongji University in 2010. His current research interest includes water resources management and water treatment.
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Jin Xu
Author: Jin Xu
Jin Xu is a PhD candidate in the College of Environmental Science and Engineering of Tongji University, Shanghai, P.R. China. He has conducted research on water resources management for several years and gained experiences on both practical and theoretical issues. His current research interest includes water resources management and urban water environment treatment.
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