Danone North America and Ingredion made new commitments to improve water stewardship and adopt sustainable agriculture practices on more than 1 million total acres of land as part of the Ceres and World Wildlife Fund AgWater Challenge. Launched in 2016, the AgWater Challenge encourages large food and beverage companies to be more conscious about their water usage.
The AgWater Challenge added the focus on sustainable agriculture in August, which includes soil health and nutrient management through technological advancements and incentive programs. As part of its new commitments, Danone North America — which has participated in a previous round — will focus its efforts on land growing dairy feed and almonds, while Ingredion will center on corn, tapioca, potato, pulses and stevia.
Previous AgWater Challenge participants include Diageo, General Mills, Hormel Foods, Kellogg and PepsiCo. While packaging and emissions are often brought up as paths to help companies meet sustainability goals, water use and agriculture can also help a corporation lower its environmental footprint.
The global food sector accounts for 70% of the world’s fresh water use, according to Ceres.
The group sites U.N. estimates saying demand for water will be 40% more than supply by 2030. Climate change and population growth are also stressing water sources. Meanwhile, Ceres notes that unsustainable agricultural practices — using excess fertilizers and pesticides and intensive tillage — can pollute water and erode soil.
Danone North America set goals of supporting soil health and water outcomes on 18,000 additional acres across the United States by 2025, which is on top of its earlier commitment on 82,000 acres. Dairy feed and almonds make up the largest share of Danone’s parent company’s global exposure to water risks. It will also offer incentive programs to cover all of the acres and farmers covered under this commitment, and work with NGOs on to support high water risk watersheds.
This latest commitment steps up Danone North America’s existing sustainability goals. Since the company became a B Corp in 2018, it has been working to address its social and environmental accountability. It has also invested in regenerative farming and worked to support watersheds.
As part of the AgWater Challenge, Ingredion is adopting regenerative farming practices on 500,000 acres of corn, tapioca, potato, pulses and stevia grown in high-risk watersheds by 2027, and across 1 million acres by 2030 — representing about 30% of its total global sourcing. It also will provide technical assistance and training to farmers and work with the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform to develop a food and beverage industry regenerative agriculture standard set for 2022.
The company already aligned itself with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and hopes to complete them by 2030. These include water conservation efforts in 100% of extremely high-water stress communities and implemeting water conservation efforts.
Other brands have already partnered with environmental and sustainability groups to support sustainability goals. Tyson is working with the Environmental Defense Fund on a land stewardship initiative that will allow the meat company to cut back on its water use, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help farmers yield more food.
These sustainability efforts come as consumers increasingly grow more concerned about the impact that food can have on the environment. According to an August survey from Informa’s NEXT Data & Insights shared by Food & Beverage Insider, 65% of consumers value who grows their food and how it was made, up from 55% on April. This makes water and agriculture two powerful ways that CPG companies can address consumer concerns and the sustainability puzzle.