Non-profit organisation Ceres is calling on major food companies to adopt stronger practices to reduce the demand and impact on limited water resources.
In response to the effects of climate change having unprecedented strains on water resources, Ceres has requested that food companies scale action to conserve water.
In its third edition of Feeding Ourselves Thirsty, Ceres has provided investors with data on the water risk management of 40 major food companies and tracks the progress made by the companies in comparison to 2017 and 2015.
While the new report has revealed improved scores in the water management practices from industry giants such as Mars and Unilever, analysis found that the firms are still not effectively manging risks in their operational or agricultural supply chains.
The 40 companies were scored based on their water management via four categories: packaged food, beverage, agricultural products and meat. Unilever, Coca-Cola, Olam and Smithfield Foods were the top scoring companies in these industries respectively, while Mars was said to be the most improved company.
The report found that the meat industry remained the lowest-performing industry.
According to Ceres, significant improvements that should take place include conducting rigorous risk assessments within the agricultural supply chain and implementing sustainable sourcing commitments.
“Growing and processing the food we eat is a thirsty business, consuming more than 70% of the world’s increasingly strained water resources,” said Brooke Barton, co-author of Feeding Ourselves Thirsty.
Barton added: “Yet, as our report reveals, the C-suite still views water as a cheap and limitless input, ignoring its central role to the profitability of their business. Despite the broader perception, we’re encouraged by the growing acknowledgement of water risks and believe any action taken to advance internal water risk management is a step in the right direction.”
Petra Meekers, global head of sustainable sourcing at Unilever said: “As we continue to see increasingly frequent and severe impacts on our food system from the climate crisis, it is becoming clear that businesses need to take a leadership role on water security.
“We are proud of the progress we have made over the past two years, but there is always much more to be done and we cannot succeed without accelerating collective action. Global corporations have an important role to play in making agricultural supply chains more resilient, including finding ways to support farmers to use water more efficiently and sustainably.”
By Emma Upshall
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