Reliable access to clean water is essential for people and agriculture. Increasingly, poor water availability and quality threaten many communities around the world. Cargill is committed to developing and accelerating agriculture solutions that protect and enhance water resources. As a result, the company has set new global water targets to achieve sustainable water management in its operations and all priority watersheds by 2030.
To achieve its water targets and improve access to clean water, Cargill wil:
- Restore 600 billion liters of water in priority watersheds
- Reduce 5 million kg of water pollutants in priority watersheds
- Improve access to safe drinking water in 25 priority watersheds
- Implement our Water Stewardship program at 81 priority facilities
"The world relies on access to clean water, for health, nutrition and economic prosperity," says Dave MacLennan, Cargill's chairman and CEO. "We must find ways to improve water quality and availability in the communities where we live and work, while also advancing the sustainability and efficiencies of our supply chains. We are focusing on the specific challenges faced by local communities and watersheds to accelerate our positive impact."
Supporting adoption of regenerative agriculture practices to improve soil health, restore water and reduce nutrient runoff.
Agriculture feeds the world, but it is also a major contributor to global water challenges and greenhouse gas emissions. With approximately 70% of the world's freshwater being used for agriculture, Cargill knows how critical it is to protect and enhance its water-use. Enhancing soil health has many interrelated benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving water quality, increasing drought resilience, enhancing farmer prosperity and helping to feed a growing global population.
- Working in partnership with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), Cargill will collaborate with Ohio State Water Quality Extension Associates to engage farmers in implementing regenerative agriculture practices focused on soil health and nutrient management. Cargill will also support the formation of a Water Quality Research Consortium to promote applied interdisciplinary on farm research across the state, parts of which have been affected by harmful algal blooms. Through this new partnership, Cargill will help connect farmers in northwest Ohio to funding resources such as H2Ohio, the state's water quality plan, for conservation practices, and provide access to cutting edge nutrient application and remote sensing equipment and technology. By adopting these practices, farmers will not only improve the productivity of their operations and the health of their soil, but also improve water quality through reduced nutrient loss and help reduce the algal blooms that impact Lake Erie and inland drinking water sources.
- In Mexico, Cargill has been working with Bimbo and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) for over three years to implement programs that enable corn farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture practices such as soil conditioning, fertilizer and nutrient management and improved irrigation. Efforts are focused in Hidalgo and Jalisco, located in the central part of Mexico. The programs have provided water savings of over 1 billion liters since they began in 2018.
- Additionally, Cargill joined forces with the Iowa Soybean Association and Quantified Ventures to launch a collaborative, market-based program to improve soil health, carbon storage and water quality on nearly 9,500 acres in Iowa. This year, the fund will achieve an estimated 170,000 pounds of nitrogen reductions and 14,250 pounds of phosphorus reductions in water. The program aims to scale this up to 100,000 acres next year, and also look for ways to bring this type of program to other parts of the world.
Providing access to clean drinking water
Access to clean water is fundamental for communities to thrive. Cargill works with partners around the world to improve access to clean drinking water and sanitation. In Indonesia, Cargill is collaborating with CARE on the Promoting a Sustainable and Food Secure World project which is implementing better sanitation facilities in schools and teaching students, teachers and communities healthy hygiene practices and providing nutrition education. In its first phase, the program has reached more than 75,000 people and improved sanitation facilities at 28 schools.
Advancing water stewardship at Cargill facilities
In addition to prioritizing water in its supply chain and communities, Cargill is working to advance sustainable water management in its operations. The company will implement a Water Stewardship program, which is a set of best practices and goals aligned to the Alliance for Water Stewardship standard, at 81 priority facilities by 2025.
Driving industry-wide change
As a member of the Water Resilience Coalition, which is an industry-driven, CEO led initiative, Cargill is committed to working with other companies, governments and communities to reduce global water stress by 2050. Working together across the entire water value chain, the coalition will preserve the world's freshwater resources through collective action and ambitious, quantifiable commitments to create a water resilient future.
"Agriculture is how we'll get this done," says MacLennan. "When we invest in regenerative agriculture programs that enhance soil health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we also improve water quality, increase drought resilience and improve access to clean water. By working across the industry and sharing best practices, we can protect the world's freshwater resources and help create a resilient, equitable economy with enough clean water for all."
Setting science-based targets
The targets are science-based and were developed in close partnership with the World Resources Institute (WRI).
"Cargill's targets represent the next generation of water targets. While for years companies have set targets that try to address global water issues, the local nature of shared water challenges has meant targets aren't necessarily meaningful in the areas in which companies operate or from where they source. But Cargill's latest ambition sets targets specific to the catchment context and severity of the local water challenges," says Sara Walker, Senior Manager, Water Quality & Agriculture at the World Resources Institute. "WRI applauds this leading approach and believes it will help pave the way for other companies across the world to adopt and act upon their own contextual water targets so that we can collectively move the needle on more sustainable water use."
Cargill believes that agriculture is how the global food system can become more sustainable. In addition to its global water targets, Cargill's sustainability efforts focus on land use, climate, farmer prosperity, and food security.
For more information on Cargill's water targets and programs, please visit the water resources page on Cargill.