Nestlé USA said its Carnation facility in Modesto, Calif., is the first dairy processing facility in the United States to earn certification under the rigorous Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) standard. The Carnation facility uses a "water positive" process to make evaporated milk, meaning the facility redistributes more water for farmers to use than it uses for production and cleaning.

The AWS Standard is the first comprehensive global standard for measuring responsible water stewardship across social, cultural, environmental and economic criteria, Arlington, Va.-based Nestlé USA said. Independent auditors from SCS Global Services assessed the facility's performance metrics on water quantity and quality, the water sources within the catchment, and the stakeholder engagement process.

In 2018, the facility developed a state-of-the-art water recycling system. Nestlé USA sources fresh milk from family dairy farms to make its evaporated milk, a process that involves removing water from milk. The facility now treats and reuses a portion of that water in cleaning processes, and the balance is made available to the community, the company said.

Thanks to the facility's efforts and investments by the city of Modesto in managing wastewater, the Carnation facility now returns more water for reuse in agriculture than it uses. The facility returned more than 70 million gallons of water to the watershed in 2020, enough to fill 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools, Nestlé USA said.

"As Nestlé strives for a more sustainable future, we are reimagining how we make our products while protecting shared resources like water," said Detlef Krost, chief technical officer for Nestlé USA. "We are extremely proud that our Modesto facility has achieved AWS certification, recognizing our ongoing efforts to recycle and replenish water for use in agriculture, the foundation of our supply chain."

Nestlé USA said it empowered its Modesto facility employees as co-owners of its water stewardship strategy.

"Above and beyond our investments, I'm most proud of the fact that we have embedded caring for water into our employee culture," said Omar Askar, Carnation factory manager. "As a result, the team identified and resolved leaks more quickly and found new uses for recycled water. In 2019, we exceeded our facility's water usage intensity goal by 40%."

Nestlé USA's commitment to water stewardship extends beyond its factory walls. The company invested in a project led by Sustainable Conservation to increase dairy farmers' adoption of an award-winning innovation that allows farmers to manage dairy manure and irrigate their fields in a more environmentally sustainable way. Farmers who implemented the technology have increased crop yields while reducing their use of water and fertilizer, reducing carbon emissions and improving water quality. Nestlé USA said its Modesto facility leadership has shared the benefits of this technology with its own network of milk suppliers in the region.

Achieving AWS certification in Modesto is an important milestone in Nestlé's global efforts to secure credible, third-party recognition for its water stewardship efforts. The Carnation facility's progress contributes to Nestlé's global commitments related to protecting water resources, which include improving water efficiency in operations, advocating for effective water policies and stewardship, and engaging with agricultural suppliers, the company said.