Nestle factory reduces water use by almost two thirds in less than 12 months

From the Wall Street Journal

Simple changes and massive savings – “1,000,000 cubic metres of water per year, the equivalent of 400 Olympic swimming pools.”

A combination of new technology and employee awareness training has enabled a Nestle factory in La Penilla, northern Spain to reduce its water use per tonne of product by almost two-thirds in less than 12 months.

It is just one of a number of water-saving initiatives the company has introduced at its factories around the world over the past decade: allowingnestle-mars it to reduce total water withdrawal in absolute terms by almost one-third, while increasing production, so that water use per tonne of product has actually been halved.

Nestle aims to further reduce water withdrawal per tonne of product by two fifths by 2015, compared to 2005.

Changing habits

At the beginning of last year, Nestle’s factory in La Penilla, which makes chocolate, confectionery, milk and infant formula, was using 72 cubic metres of water per tonne of product.

Now, after introducing changes such as a water efficiency programme, and investing one million euros (CHF 1.2 million) it has reduced this by 60% without increasing energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions.

“At the beginning, it was challenging to change the habits of the operators, who were used to working in a specific way,” explained Ramon Montserrat, Head of Engineering and Packaging Services for the Iberian Region.

“We convinced them by explaining the project and why we care about saving water.”

Simple modifications

A team of engineers, environmental sustainability experts and the factory manager at La Penilla helped to analyse how the site could reduce its water usage.

The amount of water flowing through the condensers of the milk evaporators, for example, was regulated in a more efficient way to achieve the required vacuum on the equipment.

This single and simple modification has led to a reduction of more than 1,000,000 cubic metres of water per year, the equivalent of 400 Olympic swimming pools.

The factory also installed three new cooling towers with a more efficient closed refrigeration loop system, which recycles water, leading to an additional 25% less water being used in the first half of 2013.

The amount of water that the factory needs to operate, and therefore the amount of water withdrawn from the nearby River Pisuena, is now significantly lower.

The increased water efficiency has also made business sense by reducing water costs.

Read the full article here: 


Sweden and US team up to pay for clean water


The increasing water crisis is a world-wide issue and some countries are taking it seriously.  The UK has yet to see the effects of the changes in water competition legislation but there is little confidence that it will address the key issue of conservation.

Sweden and US team up to pay for clean water.

Government action will not reduce UK water risks

Despite the promising start, the pre-election rhetoric and the publication of the Government’s White Paper on Water,  The new water bill does little to alleviate or mitigate against potential flooding or drinking water shortages.

Criticism is growing amongst environmental groups as the bill fails to provide the necessary impetus to water efficient strategies.

The wet summer has helped give the impression that the UK
is no longer at risk from water shortages.  Environmental groups however are not convinced.

Talking to journalists, managing director of Waterwise, Jakob Tompkins said: “The minister today spoke strong on ambition and was enthusiastic but we want to see more leadership from the Government.”

Government White Paper on water efficiency

One of the driest Springs in recorded history heralds the Govenment White Paper on Water Efficiency, not before time.

The long awaited White Paper on Water Efficiency is now due in the Autumn.  It is thought by  many that it will have a major impact on companies already struggling with their energy and carbon reduction programmes.  I do not think there is cause for alarm.  Unlike the carbon reduction programme, Water Efficiency can result in savings with a minimum of effort or expenditure.  In our experience the return on investment is generally less than two years and often less than one. 

Even in the unlikely event that the White Paper is kicked into the long grass, the need to address water efficiency will not go away.  Leading insurers like Lloyds and investment companies such as DEG the German development bank are showing increasing nervousness over the risks companies face due to water shortages.  It is clear that investment and insurance premiums will be hit in areas of high risk and companies that have not taken any precautions. What do we expect the white paper to say?  Here is a summary of some of the main points:

  • The white paper will recognise that water is not always charged according to its value.  In some areas, the cost of abstraction and treatment can be extremely high.  In many cases it is paid for only through a standing charge.  Increased metering is inevitable and a more equitable charging regime may also be on the cards.  This would mean that the cost of water in some regions could increase dramatically.
  • It is likely that the Government will decide on stimulation and Increased competition of the water service companies.  Short term financial incentives may encourage growth in services such as rain water harvesting and IT to aid water management.  Opening up opportunities for innovation and new start up companies.
  • Incentives to water companies will almost certainly change to remove barriers to water efficiency, sharing knowledge and joint working.  The incentive to sell more me will be reversed to selling less driving retrofitting up the list of priorities for investment.
  • Water companies already provide excellent support to the domestic users with free advice and equipment such as ‘toilet hippos’.  However it is also recognised that about 20% of the water bill can be saved in large and small businesses including schools and local government with simple cost saving devices and changes in behaviour.  Requirements to increase awareness and assistance similar to that for domestic user is likely to be placed on the shoulders of the water companies.
  • The Government is expected to use the opportunity to drive water efficiency programmes in local and central government buildings but it is also expected to promote the delivery of local water provision and joint working at community level on water and carbon reduction programmes. Local Government will take a large share of the Government’s targets and will be expected to publish their actions and the results of those actions.
  • New standards for water devices such as taps and showers will be developed as will higher standards for new buildings. 
  • Incentives for retrofitting older buildings  are expected to play a major part of the White Paper’s strategy,  Putting the onus on local water companies to focus on how that can be achieved.  Suggestions such as trading in old toilet cisterns for new have already been voiced.
  • The separation of carbon reduction and water efficiency does not make sense as energy is used to pump, heat, treat and cool water.  By reducing the water used  energy is also being saved.  The legislation will probably be changed to recognise the water/energy nexus.  This opens up opportunities for a more cohesive approach to corporate sustainability.

So what should businesses do?  Doing nothing is not an option.  The fact that there is 20% savings to be made should, in itself, prompt some action.  However, if this is not stimulus enough let me give you another statistic that may help.  Of the 30% leakage losses the water companies have announced recently in the water networks, 20% of that is on the customer side of the meter.  i.e. water that you have paid for delivery and waste but never see.  It is estimated that about £320,000,000 a year in England and Wales is literally going down the drain. 

What can be done now?  The water companies and organisations such as “Waterwise” offer advice on self help and perhaps some free products, however a full water audit and tariff analysis may have to be done in-house.  Of course, this being my bread and butter you could contact me for some free advice.  or 07823 448168

Additional advice can be found here or here or just browse through the articles in this blog.

Saving water in a university campus

With over 3,500 residents, a shopping mall, nursery, restaurants, power plant, secret research facilities, swimming pools, theatres, hotel and night clubs we are not talking about a small college here.

The site has been expanding slowly for decades and records of the water network are sketchy at best. No serious attempts to reduce water had been made in the past and the attitude of the teaching staff and students are typical of many “We have a borehole, the water is free”. (Despite the fact that the borehole has been out of use for years see so you have a borehole and your water is free?)

For our experienced teams, saving water in this environment is relatively easy. The systems are so old that there are many leaks to plug first but the next best thing is the introduction of meters to monitor where the water is going.  An audit of water use soon identifies massive potential savings in the living accommodation and laboratories. I estimate that 40 to 50% of the university’s water is being wasted and half of their leakage costs over the past 4 years can be reclaimed from the water company. The initial tranche of work should see off 80% of the losses.

At this stage I estimate that the money spent will be recovered in lower water bills within a year. Over the next two years I would expect to see the losses down to 10% or less with efficiency savings bringing the total usage down by another 20% at least. 

The biggest challenge is changing the attitudes of the teaching staff and students.  A programme of information dissemination and education needs to be planned and executed.  Without their support, much of the daily use in the laboratories, the swimming pool and the accommodation will be limited to restricted flows of water rather than careful use.  This will limit the real benefits.  We have already seen examples where one tap left running on a completed experiment over one night cost 2 cubic meters of water.  A whole class of 60 doing so and we start to think in small swimming pool proportions.

The savings on this site are going to be in the 10’s of thousands a year and if every idea implemented it would not be hard to see the site almost self-sufficient apart from the drinking water requirements.

I do love this job.

Please see other postings such as this or this or this.

All in a days work

An emergency call, a frustrated customer, a very small company, an underground leak and a big water bill. Up at 5:00am drive for two hours and arrive before customer gets in. By the time they do I have already sussed the site, read the meter and started to draw the layout. “We can’t understand it. The bill has been the same for years. We don’t use very much water in the business but our accountant tells us that our bill is much higher than it should be.”

Smart accountant. Not many around I am afraid (See earlier posting on ‘The Big Financial Blind Spot‘). The Accountant was right. The company’s water bill was 300% higher than it should have been and had been like that as long as their records went back. (So now its an “Emergency?”)

An audit of the site soon showed why they were paying too much on their water bills. Two constantly flowing urinals and an underground leak. Now you might laugh but a constantly running urinal is a common problem. Its one of those “Blind Spots” that people just miss. The underground leak is certainly not visible on the surface and as for the high water bill? Well would you or your accountant know how much water you should be using on your site? or your home for that matter? Most people don’t.

My water audit did not end there however as I discovered a major health risk with the way in which water was distributed round the site. I also manged to demonstrate three more water saving tips that will further reduce their water use in the future. All in all a good days work. The client will see a return on her investment within 8 months, shorter if our claims for back payments on 6 years of waste water bills are accepted. She will also benefit from reduced risks of a) A major infection and b) A major burst which would have closed the site for business for at least a day not to mention any subsequent water damage.

This is not an unusual days work for me and the company typical of the many sites we visit. However, it does serve to demonstrate how easy it is to save money for no real outlay.

If you would like to know more, contact me directly at or leave a comment on this page and I will respond as soon as I can.

For more information on how to help yourself go to .

Resistance to change and the sustainable manager

Business sustainability is far too complex, far too dynamic for the old traditional organisational processes.  Successful implementation can only be achieved with the full involvement of everyone.

For some people, changing behaviour is a massive strain on their synapses.  For those of us who accept change as inevitable or indeed exciting, their resistance is inexplicable.  However, it would be a sad old world if we were all the same. 

The Times reported recently that cautious people lived longer than carefree risk takers.  It would seem to me that using this argument therefore they are more likely to survive in the evolutionary progress of man, so don’t knock it.  Unfortunately however, this theory did not help the wooly mammoth when the ice retreated and left the big furry coated elephants sweating in the sun.  Evolution was not quick enough.

So it is today for our standard of living.  Oil, water and many other resources are diminishing.   This is our wooly mammoth moment.  Change now or forever rest in peace.  No point arguing that “science and technology will find a way” or “the economics of supply and demand will balance it all out”.  It is the scientists that are telling us the system is failing and the economists  have not got a clue how to explain what just happened never mind what is going to happen.

The obvious changes in resource availability today, for whatever reason, should be enough to warn that adaption is better than waiting for everything to go back to how it was, because it wont.

Overcoming resistance obviously starts at the top.  Changes in the strategy of the company must be initiated and supported from the top or all else fails.  This obvious and well-known fact is where, in my view,  the traditional function of management ends, what follows must be a radical change in approach to turning strategy to practice.  Traditionally, Executives set out the corporate strategy and the managers turn this into action by coming up with the ideas and developing the programmes for implementation.  They then attempt to engage, consult or otherwise persuade the workforce to comply with their new initiatives.

How often have we seen these initiatives stumble and fail or the original objectives altered to suit the outcomes.  (The latter is a clever consultant trick that appears to deliver what the management thought they wanted all the time.) I saw one consultancy recently, at the cost of many hundreds of thousands of hard-earned cash, implement a “very successful”  communications system that had everyone getting together and  talking (albeit about minutiae).  They convinced the Board that they had achieved their objectives.  Unfortunately productivity had fallen to a dangerous level and a great deal of money had to be spent to get the productivity outputs back to where they were previously.  The consultants were obviously not to blame (which would have incriminated the senior managers) but the lazy workforce and change resistant unions were.

So how do we achieve a sustainable business?  People who, naturally do not like change need to do the changing and that is the dilemma.  We need to start with the senior managers who need to accept that the same old way of driving change is inefficient.  The UK’s loss of its manufacturing base was not because of cheap labour in Japan and China or powerful unions.  France and Italy have high labour costs and strong unions but still have their car industries.  The UK is steeped in hierarchical, top down organisational structures where communication is mostly one way.  “Consultation” is the usual, meaningless attempt to “Involve”, “Include”, “Empower” the staff,  however, like the biased questionnaire, the “consultation” is normally limited in scope and feeble in challenge. 

Instead of a few managers coming up with ideas for the change, developing the strategy to implement them, let the whole company work out the best ideas and let the workforce implement them.  Using many minds is far better than just a few.  The people who do the job are far better placed to judge what is required and far more willing to implement their own ideas.  When I implemented this concept in the stiff, bureaucratic and change resistant environment of a local council the results were spectacular.

Keep the managers away from the process because they stifle the debate and try to “organise” and “control” the workforce.  Managers should facilitate the process not dictate how they achieve their goals. 

This “radical new idea” is not radical and is not new.  It mirrors what goes on outside the factory where people go about their family life organising their families  working with friends and family to organise football games, family parties, weddings, holidays etc.  Some will be involved in union activities, gold clubs and darts teams.  They are solving problems, juggling with their finances and trying to change the minds and ideas of the people around them all the time.  These are transferable skills that if used in the workplace would make everybody far happier and the company far more successful.

Business sustainability pervades every aspect of an organisation.  The idea that a few managers could cope with the complexity of implementation is just not rational.  The more ludicrous idea that setting up a Corporate Social Responsibility Department to oversee all this is laughable.  Especially after we have all witnessed the failure of QA Departments to ensure quality is everyone’s concern not just theirs.  Or the often silly dictates from the Health and Safety departments.  Of course expertise is required, but apart from a senior manager/director who looks to the long-term strategy they should only act as advisors and facilitators, not decision makers driving the ideas down from the top.  As soon as the department is established everyone else wash their hands of the responsibility.

As a Quality Assurance Manager in one company I was attacked by our bullying production manager who had just had a whole batch of products returned as poor quality and he wanted my blood.  I told him he misunderstood our roles in quality assurance.  His was to tell me how he would achieve his quality objectives and mine was to report when he failed to do what he said he would do.  In this case he “saved time” by not checking customer specification changes. ( Actually, I said “I had the easiest job in the world as all I had to do was sit on his back and whip him with ‘failure to comply’ reports when he failed to do what he said he would do.”)

Sustainability like quality, health and safety and environmental policies are all a part of the responsibilities shared by everyone.  Not everyone is an expert so advice has to be available from the experts.  No need for new expensive departments with high paid “managers” writing reports and procedures or dictating how people should use the dual flush toilets.

The key to this organisational model is trust.  Senior managers need to trust their workforce and the workforce need to trust the senior managers.  Middle managers should be facilitator not dictators or gate keepers between the top management and the workforce. 

Implementation of this radical new view of organisational management cannot be achieved in a hurry but through a series of steps, opening up the top down, bottom up dialogue, changing middle management roles from managers to facilitator, ensuring senior managers do not waver from the objectives, having the courage to see it through and developing the trust required to achieve maximum benefit.

Radical change cannot happen without a radical change in approach happening first.