Water is one of the most essential natural resources – recognised by the United Nations as a human right and a key input to the global economy. Today, water risks are becoming more apparent in companies’ supply chains. But as some struggle with the complexities of water stewardship, we explain how we assess it as an environmental, social and governance (ESG) concern in our investment decisions.
Despite their complexity and global reach, an increasing number of companies are embracing their responsibilities towards water risk in their supply chains. Last year, companies reported 3,770 water risks which threaten their license to operate, the security of their supply chains, and their ability to grow, according to CDP. Moreover, companies committed $23.4bn to tackle water risk in 91 countries around the world in 2017.
This commitment to water stewardship is illustrated well by the water policy of current holding General Mills.
Approximately 99% of General Mills’ water use occurs upstream of its direct operations in agriculture, ingredient production and packaging. Food production, in particular, relies heavily on an adequate supply of clean water, for growing crops and making products for consumers. Today, agriculture accounts for 70% of global water use. As such, companies sourcing agricultural commodities are exposed to physical, regulatory and reputational water risks, which can manifest as financial damage. It is therefore necessary for General Mills to manage its exposure to water as it is critical to its long-term success as a global food company.