US food companies' water management policies rated
In May 2015 Ceres produced a report called “Feeding ourselves thirsty: How the food sector is managing global water risks. A benchmark report for investors.”
The worst performing companies included Archer-Daniels Midland Co, Fresh Del Monte, Monster Beverages, Hain Celestial and Kraft Foods Group.
According to the report producing food was the most water-intensive business on earth stating that it faced twin challenges of water scarcity and water pollution. In particular the report linked the financial impacts on companies of water scarcity and shortages and gave examples of how profits of companies such as Campbell Soup Company and Cargill had been affected by the recent droughts in the US.
It went on to state that “seventy percent of the world’s freshwater was used to irrigate crops and raise animals” and “one-third of total food production was in areas of high or extremely high water stress, or competition.” Run-off of fertilizers from farm fields was one of the most common causes of “water pollution worldwide, causing dead zones, harming fisheries, affecting human health and raising water treatment costs.”
The report analysed water management policies of US food companies over four different categories: packaged food, beverage, meat and agricultural products.
Companies were assessed over four categories and were scored out of a total of 100.
1) governance and management
2) direct operations
3) manufacturing supply chain
4) agricultural supply chain
Overall the report found that while a small number of companies were taking wide-ranging actions to manage water risks across their operations and supply chains, most had a long way to go.
Companies in the packaged food and beverages industries had the highest overall scores.
Disappointingly the report found that only six companies had a sustainable agriculture policy that included water, with PepsiCo’s and Unilever’s being the most robust. Unilever had an Agricultural Code of Conduct that included an entire section focused on water use and pollution and defines practices with which agricultural producers were expected to comply.
Packaged foods: Unilever scored 70 and was the highest performing company in the report
Beverage: The Coca-Cola Company scored 67
Agricultural products: Bunge scored 29
Meat: Smithfield Foods scored 33
See the full report
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