ESG research of the year, Europe: DWS, Ceres and BlueRisk

A joint report by Ceres, DWS and data experts BlueRisk looked at the amount of financial value that is at risk from water pollution and availability, which is often ignored, with a particular focus on the packaged meat and apparel industry.

Using data provided by the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Security, S&P Global Sustainable, as well as that from other sources, The Financial implications of Addressing Water Related externalities in the Apparel and Meat Sectors argues these sectors’ contributions to water stress is not often in focus by investors and governments.

It finds that the cost of addressing harmful water impacts could range from nearly $60 million to $1.8 billion annually for some large publicly-traded packaged meat and apparel companies.

“Water is a neglected priority by investors, companies and governments so we are grateful to Environmental Finance for recognising the Ceres, BlueRisk and DWS research report on the financial and societal materiality of water,” said Murray Birt, senior ESG strategist at DWS Group. “This report will support investors in becoming more active in encouraging companies and governments to strengthen their water sustainability efforts.”

The report concludes that, if companies were required either through future regulations, internal policies or investor or societal expectations to clean up and reduce their water use, the additional spending could negatively impact some apparel company earnings by between 21% and 47%. While the impact on meat companies could see their net profits hit by between 5% and 165%.

“The apparel and meat sectors are among the largest industrial contributors to water scarcity and quality issues – and they are also among those with the most related financial risk,” said Kirsten James, senior program director for water at Ceres, and a contributing author of the report. “Companies in all industries have an obligation to understand this financial risk and act to eliminate their negative impacts on water, in order to protect value at risk for shareholders.”