Ceres expanding its work on sustainable food systems

Ceres, the U.S. based sustainability non-profit which works with networks of investors and companies to build sustainability leadership and solutions to transform the economy, has said it has greatly expanded its activities on sustainable food systems according to its new Annual Report published in June.

Ceres said this work is focusing on driving large-scale changes in the way food is produced and sourced, by tackling challenges from deforestation to human rights abuses. This will build on Ceres existing food activities on sustainable agriculture, water, and palm oil and their on-going relationships with some of the largest global food companies.

Ceres major programme areas are sustainable capital markets; climate and clean energy; water; sustainable business strategies; and, policy. Ceres saw its financial support grow nearly 20% over its 2016 financial year with operating revenues of just under $12.6 million and operating expenses of $12.3 million. Of these 82% was spent on its main program areas, 10% on management and operations, and 8% on development.

Ceres, based in Boston and San Francisco, also took on more full-time employees in 2016 and expanded from 72 to 89 employees. The Ceres investor network added 13 new members in 2016 taking it to 130 which collectively manage over $13 trillion in assets.

In their Annual Report 2016 they highlight what they say are food companies leading on water sustainability issues – from water scarcity to water pollution in supply chains. It is sometimes forgotten that food production from farm to factory is the world’s most water intensive business – agriculture alone uses 70% of freshwater worldwide.

Ceres research has been benchmarking food and beverage company management of water risks, as well as investor engagement on this issue. In addition, together with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Ceres launched an AgWater Challenge in 2016 to promote company leadership in water stewardship. In 2016, seven companies were recognised as Ceres-WWF AgWater Stewards – Diageo, General Mills, Hain Celestial, Hormel Foods, Kellogg Company, PepsiCo, and White Wave Foods.

Seven years ago Ceres launched its Roadmap for Sustainability to be used as a practical framework for companies to integrate stronger environmental, social and governance practices into core business strategies. In 2017 Ceres plans to publish its third assessment of more than 600 publicly traded companies in the U.S. and their progress towards meeting the Ceres Roadmap and putting sustainability at the centre of business strategies.