Ceres used a systematic method for evaluating and scoring the water risk management practices of the 42 companies assessed. The methodology used for both this analysis and for the first Feeding Ourselves Thirsty report released in 2015, use publicly available information and are grounded in the “Ceres Aqua Gauge,1” a framework developed in 2011 by Ceres, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), IRRC Institute and Irbaris in consultation with 50 investors, companies and nongovernmental organizations. The “Aqua Gauge” was developed to aid investors in evaluating the water management activities of corporations in a range of sectors against detailed definitions of leading practice. For the purpose of the Feeding Ourselves Thirsty analyses, these definitions were modified to enhance their relevance to the unique water use characteristics of the food sector.

Ceres partnered with Environmental Resources Management (ERM), an environmental consulting firm, to complete this analysis. In addition to providing guidance on the methodology refinement, ERM led the data collection process, conducted initial and final scoring of companies, and synthesized initial key findings.

How Companies Were Selected

The 42 companies evaluated in this report fall within the food products and beverage industries, as defined by the Global Industry Classification System (GICS). A majority of the companies selected are among the largest packaged food, beverage, meat and agricultural products firms listed in either the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and/or the Russell 1000 indices as of July 2014 prior to the release of the first Feeding Ourselves Thirsty analysis. In addition, there are a few large companies that are either listed on different indices or are privately held that were included in the analysis to provide a more comprehensive universe for benchmarking. This includes five new additions to the company universe for this analysis including Olam, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Diageo, Danone and Mars.

Data Sources

For each company, only publicly available information was used for the assessment. Any company disclosures made publicly available after March 16, 2017 were not included in this assessment.

The following documents were reviewed:

  • Voluntary corporate disclosures such as sustainability or corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, press releases, and company websites.
  • Company responses to the CDP 2016 water information request, as well as relevant information reported to the CDP 2016 climate change information request.
  • Mandatory financial disclosures, such as 10-K filings, annual reports and proxy statements.

Data Collection Process and Quality Control

There were multiple rounds of data collection and review between January and March 2017. ERM conducted the first level of the data collection and scoring between January and February 2017. Ceres conducted a second round of review and data collection, and made minor adjustments to the framework to ensure clarity and consistency in evaluation across industries. ERM incorporated this review into the assessment and completed a third and final round of review of all company assessments and scores.

In addition to conducting a final review of each company assessment, Ceres performed quality assurance checks of all 41 sub-indicators across all 42 companies evaluated. Through these checks, Ceres was able to ensure that companies were evaluated and scored consistently within different indicators and sub-indicators across the four industries.

Indicators and Weights

Company scores are based on the findings of 11 indicators and 41 sub-indicators that fall within four water management categories: governance and management, direct operations, manufacturing supply chain and agricultural supply chain. One hundred points were allocated at the sub-indicator level and roll up into total indicator scores, total water management category scores and total overall company scores.

There have been slight changes in the indicators, guidance and scoring since the 2015 report. The reasoning behind these minor changes was to ensure that the final company scores for each of these 42 companies are a more accurate reflection of a company’s water risk management response. One key change is an adjustment to the weighting of the four categories listed above with a stronger emphasis on the agricultural supply chain, where the bulk of the food sector exposure to water risks lies.


Water Management Category

2015 Weighting

2017 Weighting

Governance and Management

25 %

25 %

Direct Operations

30 %

25 %

Manufacturing Supply Chain

20 / 15 % *

15 %

Agricultural Supply Chain

25 / 30 % *

35 %


*In the 2015 report, point allotments for indicators and water management categories varied slightly by industry. 

As a result of the shift in weighting towards the agricultural supply chain category and minor adjustments to indicators (with a focus primarily on updating the corresponding guidance), there are a few sub-indicators or categories that are more challenging to compare between 2015 and 2017. We were careful in the Key Findings analysis to note and qualify such examples.


Download the detailed company scores (.xls) and the scoring guidance (.pdf).