Ceres ranking finds food companies perform poorly on managing water risk

Ceres' Feeding Ourselves Thirsty report evaluates 37 food companies on their water use, stewardship and policies, including the right to access to water. The report provides recommendations for how investment analysts can more effectively evaluate food sector companies on their water risk exposure and management and how companies can improve water efficiency and water quality to reduce risks and protect water resources.

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8 May 2015

Companies comment on Ceres report findings

Author: Ucilia Wang, Guardian (UK)

"Food companies are unprepared for global water scarcity, says new report",

Kellogg’s chief sustainability officer, Diane Holdorf, praised the Ceres report for raising awareness about the challenges companies face and giving examples of practices worth emulating...Most of [ADM's] processing plants that use high volumes of water are in regions where local water resources are not stressed, [a spokesman] said in an email...[A] spokeswoman for Smithfield...emailed to say the company has already exceeded its 2015 goal of reducing water use by 10%, from 2008 levels, per 100 pounds of product produced, and plans to set new goals...Tyson spokesman Dan Fogleman wrote that the report didn’t take into account some of the new technologies the company been using to conserve and reuse water...He said the report also “mischaracterized” the company’s North American wastewater discharge as pollution...Some of the companies declined to comment on the report – such as Hormel Foods and Constellation Brands – or didn’t respond to requests for comments by press time, such as Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

Ceres also highlighted examples of strong water management policies. For example, Campbell Soup, Dean Foods, Molson Coors and Unilever offer executives financial incentives for achieving water management goals.  Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, Nestle and Unilever have deadline-driven goals to expand sustainable water management practices, which range from planting cover crops to reduce water runoffs and soil erosion to capturing and storing rainfall, across the majority of their suppliers. The report also recommends several things the industry can do to improve.

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8 May 2015

Full report

Author: Eliza Roberts & Brooke Barton, Ceres

[Examples of links between food companies & access to water:]

Increased conflict with other water users & loss of social license to operate. Water shortages amplify reputational issues for companies who are seen as competing with local communities for access to water supplies. This can lead to the loss of a company’s social license to operate, business disruption and brand damage. The Coca-Cola Company decided not to move forward on the development of an $81 million bottling plant in southern India in April 2015 due to resistance from local farmers who cited concerns about strains on local ground water supplies. Even in water-rich regions, companies perceived as using water unfairly may be exposed to reputational risk or loss ofcommunity support.

Inadequate delivery of water and sanitation by government to local communities enhances perceptions of inequity of access and harms corporate community relationships, potentially restricting a company’s ability to operate or grow. This is becoming a bigger issue as access to water becomes more widely recognized as a human rights

Only seven companies—all of them in the packaged food and beverage sector—acknowledged that access to drinking water and sanitation are fundamental human rights. Having provide dformal recognition that water is a human right as voted upon by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2010, some companies are following suit by evaluating the human rights impacts of their water management practices

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