US retail giant Target, and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and food ingredient providers, have officially joined a multi-stakeholder initiative to help food and beverage companies advance their sustainable sourcing policies to protect global water supply.
The global food sector uses 70 percent of the world’s freshwater supply—meaning food and beverage companies have a significant role to play in protecting water quality and quantity for generations to come.
The AgWater Challenge, which was developed by WWF and Ceres, helps companies advance their sustainable sourcing strategies. Participating companies receive support in analyzing water issues within their supply chains, and in refining or making new sourcing commitments that enable them to better address their risk.
Participation in the Agwater Challenge by Target and ADM was announced in London at last week’s FT-WWF Water and Finance Summit.
Seven companies representing more than $123 Billion USD in annual net revenue were the first to join the challenge back in 2016. These corporate partners agreed to time-bound targets to reduce the water impact of their ingredients, implement on-the-ground strategies in supplier regions experiencing water scarcity, and help supplier farmers increase water stewardship.
Over the past two years, participating companies like Diageo, General Mills and Danone North America have made over 25 commitments related to strengthening water stewardship in their agriculture supply chains.
As the first retailer to join the challenge, Target pledged to promote sustainable water management in California as an active member of the California Water Action Collaborative. It will also join with other companies to back public policies that advance resilient water solutions through Ceres’ Connect the Drops campaign. And it’s working with Practical Farmers of Iowa and Sustainable Food Lab to develop a market solution for climate and water protection in the Corn Belt.
ADM, the first agricultural products company to join the challenge, manages a massive supply chain that stretches around the world. Its global value chain includes 500 crop procurement locations and 270 ingredient manufacturing plants—meaning its potential impact is equally immense. As part of its commitment to the challenge, ADM will incentivize participation in Illinois’ Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources (STAR), a farmer certification program focused on soil health. It will also work with growers to increase supplier acres using cover crops and alternative tilling practices by 25 percent each by 2022, among other pledges.
All challenge participants commit to be transparent about the progress toward their targets and communicate the positive impacts they’ve made in freshwater basins, Ceres and WWF said. “As human demand for water grows—particularly for agriculture—the pressures on critical freshwater ecosystems also grow,” said Bass of WWF. “When companies like Target and ADM embrace water stewardship across their agricultural supply chains, they set the stage for others to follow.”
Other participants include beverage giant PepsiCo, packaged food purveyors Kellogg and Hormel, and food and personal care company Hain Celestial Group.