Building on its history of working on water stewardship in agricultural supply chains, CBIS is setting its sights on the international arena, engaging some of the largest meat production companies globally on their critical role in water stewardship. Brazil and China are experiencing serious drought and water stress from pollution, respectively, which strengthens the case for performing systematic water risk assessments that are inclusive of the human right to water. The Human Right to Water and Sanitation clarifies that it is the responsibility of companies to ensure their operations do not infringe upon the right of individuals to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water. This human right is further buttressed by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number 6, which includes a target for improving water quality by reducing pollution and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals.
WH Group, based in China, is the largest pork company in the world and new owner of Smithfield Foods, the largest US-based pork producer. Our goal for the engagement is to encourage better management of water impacts from meat production that will help to conserve water and protect community access to water.
In 2016, CBIS spearheaded a letter backed by 40 investors managing $6.6 billion in assets calling on WH Group to address key water pollution concerns. The company responded to our letter in the first quarter of 2017, largely describing initiatives focused on U.S.-based Smithfield Foods. CBIS encouraged the company to take a more global look at its water quality impacts and invited it to a dialogue with investors, scheduled for later this year.