Farming accounts for around 70 percent of water used in the world today, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Increased pressure from urbanization, industrialization and climate change will provide agriculture with more competition for water resources. Sustainable management of water in agriculture is critical to increase agricultural production, ensure water can be shared with other users, and maintain the environmental and social benefits of water systems.
Ceres and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have launched an initiative called the AgWater Challenge to encourage companies to reduce water use in their global supply chains. Seven major companies, including Diageo, General Mills, Hain Celestial, Hormel Foods, Kellogg, PepsiCo, and WhiteWave Foods, have signed up for the Challenge.
All these companies have submitted detailed sustainable sourcing and water stewardship plans. Progress reports on their commitments will be published within a year. According to Brooke Barton, Senior Director of the Water and Food Program at Ceres, leading food companies can be a powerful force for scaling water stewardship, particularly at the farm level where the biggest footprint is by far.
More than ever, companies are responding to future water supply risks through farmer incentives, local partnerships and bottom line reductions.
PepsiCo has committed that it will work with its agricultural suppliers to improve the water efficiency of its direct agricultural supply chain by 15 percent by 2025 (compared to 2015) in high water risk sourcing areas, including India and Mexico.
Hain Celestial is setting a new sustainable sourcing goal for key agricultural inputs, including a commitment to strengthen water and fertilizer management practices of farmers in its ingredient and protein supply chains.
Hormel Foods has committed that it will develop a comprehensive water stewardship policy, setting water management expectations that go beyond regulatory compliance for its major suppliers, contract animal growers and feed suppliers – a meat industry first. The company will also support and engage with growers in high water risk regions.
WhiteWave Foods will develop a time-bound road map for agricultural water stewardship over the next 24 months that addresses shared water challenges facing their key commodities in areas of greatest water risk, including California. They will also support and scale projects that restore freshwater systems in areas material to supply chains and engage in policy advocacy to strengthen water management in high risk priority sourcing regions.
In addition to new commitments, the AgWater Challenge recognizes companies with far-reaching, ongoing commitments. Diageo, General Mills, and Kellogg were recognized as AgWater Stewards for showing action across all five categories of the groups’ AgWater Challenge checklist.
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