Feeding ourselves thirsty: how the food sector is managing global water risks

The global food sector faces extraordinary risks from the twin challenges of water scarcity and water pollution. Growing competition for water, combined with weak regulations, failing infrastructure, pollution and climate change impacts threaten the sector’s water security and contribute to a water availability emergency that was recently ranked the world’s “top global risk” by the World Economic Forum. This report examines how water risks affect the profitability and competitive positioning of 37 major food sector companies in four industries: packaged food, beverage, meat and agricultural products. It evaluates and ranks these companies—the majority of which are U.S. domiciled and publicly-traded—on how well they are positioned to anticipate and mitigate these risks, as well as contribute to improved water resource management. The report provides recommendations for how analysts and investors can effectively evaluate food sector companies on their water risk exposure and management practices. It also provides recommendations for how food companies can improve water efficiency and water quality across their operations and supply chains to reduce risks and protect water resources.