Smithfield tops meat industry list in water management

Smithfield Foods ranks No. 1 in water management among leading meat companies in a new report from business sustainability organization Ceres.

Smithfield Foods ranks No. 1 in water management among leading meat companies in a new report from business sustainability organization Ceres. Achieving the top ranking, a significant accomplishment given the water-use challenges across global agriculture, underscores the company's leadership position in providing sustainable food.

The Ceres report awards Smithfield 33 out of a possible 100 points in four categories: governance and management, direct operations, manufacturing supply chain, and agriculture supply chain. The next-closest ranking for a meat-industry competitor was 12, with the lowest of five companies' scores at three.

"We are proud of the continuous progress we've made in addressing the kinds of water management challenges facing agriculture and are honored that our effort was recognized by a leading not-for-profit sustainability organization," said Smithfield Foods President and Chief Executive Officer C. Larry Pope.

The company understands that environmental stewardship is an important issue to its key stakeholders and is constantly looking for ways to reuse or reduce the use of water. Across its operations, Smithfield has invested in programs and projects to manage water use and mitigate water pollution as part of its mission to provide Good food. Responsibly. These include:

  • In 2008, the company set a goal to reduce water use 10 percent per 100 pounds of product produced by the end of 2015. The company surpassed the goal ahead of schedule with an 18 percent reduction in 2014. Currently, it is revamping the goals to create further improvements.
  • Smithfield constantly considers new projects to reduce or reuse water, including installing a water reuse system at its Tar Heel plant in North Carolina that provides more than 1 million gallons of water per day. Additionally, the facility partnered with the Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority to build a 6 million-gallons-per-day (MGD) water treatment plant supplied by the Cape Fear River to alleviate potential stress on the local groundwater aquifer due to long-term growth projections for the area.
  • To address water use in parts of its supply chain, Smithfield is participating in a fertilizer optimization and soils health program designed to improve the efficiency of grain produced in the southeastern United States.
  • The company uses Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines for public sustainability reporting, and utilized two separate tools to assess water risk both domestically and internationally: the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Water Tool; and the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) Local Water Tool.

"Even with all these important initiatives, our work isn't over," Pope said. "Water issues remain one of the most critical risks facing the food industry. The Ceres report notes that one-third of the world's food production occurs in areas of high or extremely high water stress, or competition. As a leader in the global meat industry, Smithfield has an obligation to help find solutions to this pressing issue."

"The company's work in water issues aims at constant improvement," said Dennis Treacy, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer. "Our employees know that achieving our sustainability goals and targets is an ongoing process and requires commitment from all of us."

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