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.
Brazil-based JBS SA is a leading processor of beef, pork and lamb in the US and the largest cattle feeder in the world. 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 45 investors managing $1.2 trillion in assets calling on JBS SA to address key water pollution concerns. The company responded to our letter in the first quarter of 2017, seeking dialogue on its impacts to water. Since our initial outreach, JBS SA has been charged with bribery and corruption, along with product contamination, deforestation and health & safety and human rights violations. CBIS organized an investor webinar to discuss the company’s deficiencies in sustainability leadership and to mobilize investors around an open letter, penned by CBIS, to the company seeking major corporate governance reforms. Water stewardship remains a focus of engagement, augmented by governance concerns.
In August 2017, we sent a second letter to the company, requesting a meeting to urge changes in its corporate governance structure that integrates accountability of environmental and social issues at the company’s helm. This letter garnered global support of over 35 investors with combined assets more than USD $4.1 trillion. Given the continued negative events, CBIS is closely monitoring the company and will identify an appropriate time to re-enter the conversation specific to water, as we continue to build investor response to governance failures.