According to a new report by Ceres, food and beverage companies are not doing enough to address environmental and social risks in climate change, water scarcity, and human rights.
The report, Sector Analysis – Food and Beverage, identifies three risks which if neglected, can significantly threaten a company’s operations: climate change, water conservation, and human rights protection. And it finds mitigating these risks with consistent, ambitious, and time-bound goals helps companies navigate the global food system.
Ceres cautions that while companies address these risks with varying degrees of urgency, they continue to put the global food system at risk. Instead, the most successful leading companies must collaborate with peers at all levels for sector-wide sustainable practices to protect the food system.
“We’ve found there’s a lot of variation, even amongst the companies within the food and beverage sector, about how ambitious their goals are, whether they’re science-based, whether they’re time-bound, and whether they apply across their whole value-chain,” says Mary Ann DiMascio, Senior Manager at Ceres Company Network. “That’s really the direction we need to move in: making sure that they are being ambitious enough.”
Food and beverage companies notably set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, but their ambition varies per company. While 86 percent of companies set targets to reduce emissions, only 33 percent – including Campbell Soup and Kellogg Company – have promised to increase renewable energy sourcing. The report suggests companies should collaborate to adopt science-backed targets such as those identified in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Although most companies, such as The Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi Co, set quantifiable and time-bound goals to conserve water, only about 37 percent prioritize conserving water in areas involved in the company’s production that face severe water crisis. The report suggests companies familiarize themselves with the risk this poses to their operations, while improving their water management practices in areas that provide their agricultural supply.
The report finds that although food and beverage companies maintain commitments to human rights protections, many lack policy implementation systems to ensure that all facilities maintain the same standards in facility conditions, forced labor, and impacts on indigenous communities. Formal commitments to human rights can ensure consistency throughout their global operations.
The food and beverage sector report is one of ten sector-specific reports by Ceres taking a closer look into the findings of their most recent report, Turning Point. This report tracks progress of six hundred leading companies adopting sustainable practices in four areas of activity: governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure, and performance.
Ceres is a nonprofit organization building corporate leadership and solutions for a sustainable global economy. As part of their mission, Ceres publishes annual reports to track the challenges and progress of investors and companies in contributing to corporate sustainability.