Ecolab’s Barueri, Brazil Plant Certified as Water Stewardship Leader
Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Case Study
Ecolab’s manufacturing facility located in the city of Barueri, in the state of São Paulo (Brazil), is a factory dedicated to the production of industrial chemical solutions for cleaning and disinfection. The Barueri facility primarily utilizes municipal water from the São Lourenço system, which draws water from the Cachoeira do França reservoir, located in the Ribeira de Iguape river basin, and obtains additional water, including potable, from the São Paulo Aquifer. Domestic and industrial effluents are sent to an outsourced industrial treatment facility before being discharged into the Tietê River.
In alignment with Ecolab’s commitment to a holistic approach to water management across its manufacturing facilities, in 2022, the company achieved the Core Certification for Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Version 2.0 International Water Standard at its Barueri plant. The facility has continued to stay up to date on AWS certification requirements.
The team at Ecolab’s Barueri plant assessed the facility for opportunities to decrease water use across operations to meet Ecolab’s 2030 Impact Goals to reduce water impact by 40% per unit production across the enterprise and further restore greater than 50% of absolute water withdrawal volume at high-risk sites. Aligned with these enterprise goals, the local team’s objective was to reduce annual water use per ton of product by 3.3% on average each year from 2018 to 2022.
Water reduction opportunities were identified in the following areas: enhancements in process equipment washout processes, assembly of a rainwater harvesting system, improvements in reverse osmosis utilities, research into alternative sources for water consumption, deployment of automatic effluent treatment process and an employment of enhanced water governance controls. Prioritization of these opportunities involved collaboration across the Corporate Sustainability and Barueri Engineering and Safety, Health and Environment teams.
A comprehensive risk assessment was performed leveraging insights from Ecolab’s Smart Water Navigator, and the World Resources Institute (WRI) Aqueduct Atlas to identify shared and site-level water challenges. Implementation of water withdrawal reduction projects was prioritized based on risk probability and impact to site-level and community stakeholders. Of the five water outcomes of the AWS Standard, Barueri focused on sustainable water balance, good water quality and good water governance balancing relevancy and risk to the site.
With the aim to improve overall health of local watersheds, and as part of Ecolab’s 2030 Impact Goals, we have prioritized AWS certification in high-risk watersheds in which we operate.
An average annualized water reduction of 1.2 million gallons, equivalent to $52,500 in risk-adjusted cost savings, was achieved from 2018 to 2022.
The following projects help improve the facility’s water balance and have been initiated to reduce overall water use:
- Construction of a rainwater harvesting system for use throughout operations
- Optimization of process equipment washout processes
- Improvement in reverse osmosis (RO) units to increase efficiency
- Reuse of RO water in process applications
- Deployment of an automatic effluent treatment process
- Employment of enhanced water governance controls to identify continuous improvement projects and validate effluent treatment processes
The following projects are being considered for future enhancements:
- Improvement in effluent treatment processes to allow for additional reuse opportunities.
- Replacement of RO water with soft water for appropriate products.
- Construction of a rainwater harvesting system for use throughout operations.
- Implementation of the washing matrix in the product manufacturing sequencing processes.
- Reactivation of the deep tubular well as an alternative source of water consumption.
These combined efforts contributed to the Barueri plant’s progress towards their average 3.3% annual water intensity reduction target by achieving an overall reduction of 44% water withdrawal per ton of product in 2022 from a 2018 base year.
- Positive Water Impact | Average annualized water reduction of 1.2 million gallons (~4,600 cubic meters) resulting in a 44% reduction of water use per ton of product realized in 2022 from a 2018 base year.
- Economic Results | $52,500 average annualized risk-adjusted cost savings.
At the plant level, the safety, health and environment leader and team is responsible for managing the water quality, effluent and legal wastewater discharges and steering water savings projects onsite. The utilities lead, logistics lead, production lead and maintenance lead and their supporting teams are responsible for executing on water savings projects. The utilities department is also responsible for operation of the effluent system, relevant sample collection, monitoring analysis reports and the legal wastewater discharge updates. The ultimately accountable is the plant manager.
To maintain good wastewater quality, wastewater is adjusted for pH continually. Full testing is done on a monthly basis and annual analysis is sent to the São Paulo State’s water sanitation company and environmental agency to ensure permit compliance. Incoming water quality for drinking water is tested monthly and process water is tested daily.
If a spill or water-related issue were to occur, the Barueri site has a robust incident response plan that includes a root cause analysis of the original incident, a review by the leadership team, documentation in an internal reporting platform and communication of mitigation strategies during monthly site meetings. The site has not had any water related violations in the past year.
The Sustainability Team is guided and advised by the Sustainability Executive Advisory Team, which is made up of the company’s most senior business and divisional leaders. In addition, Ecolab’s Sustainability, Water Stewardship and Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) positions are publicly available and serve as commitments to and guidance on water-related issues and compliance. Ecolab’s Sustainability Position formalizes Ecolab’s global commitment to sustainability within the company and its impact on customers. Ecolab’s Water Stewardship Position reinforces Ecolab’s global commitment to responsible water stewardship by identifying opportunities for the company and its customers to use water resources in a manner that benefits business, communities and nature. Ecolab’s SHE position outlines the company’s commitment to excellence in safety, health and environmental practices and performance across global operations.
Water Stewardship Journey
Factory employees participated in several social projects to make the local community aware of the importance of water. An example of this was the Arte Nos Muros initiative, with the participation of public schools in the region. The facility maintains contact with local public authorities, including the municipal sanitation company, a variety of private companies in the area, and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In addition, through Ecolab's role as a founding member of the United Nations (UN) Water Resilience Coalition, work has begun on the launch of the São Paulo section, which expands the collective engagement of medium and small companies in the area to address water-related challenges.
In addition, Ecolab is committed to a project in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for the São Paulo Water Fund. The main objective of this project is to protect and improve water security in the São Paulo metropolitan region. Through the São Paulo Water Fund, at least 220 hectares of forests in the municipalities of Mogi das Cruzes and Salesópolis will be protected, both municipalities located at the head of the Alto Tietê watershed. Project partners engage with rural landowners, map existing forests for conservation and restoration, and identify rural sanitation improvements. Voluntary water conservation agreements are negotiated with landowners, in line with municipal water conservation policies that already exist in the municipalities. Upon signing, these agreements compensate rural landowners for conserving the forest on their land. The project uses funding to expand access to basic sanitation in rural areas by replacing rudimentary systems with advanced technologies in Salesópolis and/or Mogi das Cruzes. The project will not only replenish 29.4 million gallons of water per year for 10 years from 2023, it will also maintain groundwater storage and replenishment, surface water quality, and the abundance and diversity of native plant species. In addition, the project must maintain or enhance carbon sequestration, contributing to improve adaptation and mitigation strategies and improving human health in the region.
In addition to local water stewardship efforts, Ecolab's global giving program, Solutions for Life, enhances the company's mission to conserve and protect fresh water through partnerships and additional projects with TNC and the Project WET Foundation.
With the goal of improving the overall health of local watersheds, and as part of Ecolab's 2030 impact goals, we prioritize AWS certification to impact watersheds at high risk of water scarcity.