Protect Water and Natural Resources

Natural Resource Protection and Restoration

Protect and contribute to the restoration of natural ecosystems and biodiversity by achieving resource positivity for key raw materials, sharply reducing demand for renewable and non-renewable resources and bringing circular economy business solutions to scale throughout the value chain.

Companies commit to achieve resource positivity for key raw materials through the use of circular economy principles across their value chain by 2030. Specifically, companies will:

  • Assess business models and processes within operations and across the value chain and analyze critical resource flows based on their dependency and impact on natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity to identify material issues and prioritize action 

  • Engage with internal decision makers across departments and upstream and downstream business partners to identify short-term opportunities and develop a detailed action plan to (1) design products and services without waste and pollution, (2) increase the useful life of products and materials, (3) protect the supply and quality of natural resources and (4) regenerate the health, function and biodiversity of natural ecosystems

  • Embed circular economy principles as a priority consideration in decision-making across relevant business functions (e.g. operations, design, sourcing, supply chain management, etc.) 

  • Factor circular economy principles into new short, medium, and long-term investment decisions, including capital expenditures, project financing, mergers and acquisitions and research and development 

  • Set robust, interim natural resource protection targets toward the achievement of resource positivity by 2030

In the pursuit of resource positivity for key raw materials and to demonstrate progress towards integrating circular economy principles across the value chain, in 2025 companies will:

  • Implement circular business solutions based on a detailed action plan and disclose progress against quantitative key performance indicators related to reductions in their natural resource footprint toward achieving resource positivity by 2030

  • Disclose how circular economy principles are used to prioritize business decisions

  • Expand the application of successful pilot programs and embed lessons learned into longer-term business strategies 

  • Require all new financing and investments to avoid negative ecosystem impacts and, where possible, promote natural ecosystem resilience and regeneration

Companies have achieved resource positivity for key raw materials that have the greatest impact on natural ecosystems and biodiversity, have reduced their demand for renewable and nonrenewable resources across the value chain and are scaling circular business solutions. Companies use quantitative metrics to measure impact and manage resources towards resource efficiency and protection, require all investing and financing projects avoid negative ecosystem impacts and, where possible, promote natural ecosystem resilience and regeneration. 

Achieving Traceability in Commodity Supply Chains

Companies will not be able to completely implement circular economy principles, protect and increase biodiversity and reach resource positivity until they can achieve traceability in their commodity supply chains. With greater traceability, companies and investors will be able to understand from where specific resources originate and how resources are brought to market.  This level of detail will give companies the information they need to engage with their suppliers and develop measures to conserve and protect resources in areas where extraction is disrupting local ecosystems and communities.  

Critically needed tools are emerging to help connect these dots. Trase is a tool that ties commodity flows to jurisdictions with high rates of deforestation and identifies suppliers purchasing resources from those regions. Global Forest Watch leverages satellite data to provide real time geospatial information on deforestation-related activity. These types of tools help companies map supplier operations to deforestation activity in specific countries and regions. This data, coupled with multi-stakeholder collaboration, will increase the scale and speed of solutions development and deployment across complex global supply chains.

Getting Started

This section of the Ceres Roadmap 2030 identifies the foundational steps companies can take to begin implementing the actions needed to protect water and natural resources.

✓ Respect Human Right to Water and Sanitation

In addition to company wide policies that support the intention to reduce activities that impact water and natural resources, companies will have a policy that reflects their responsibility to respect the Human Right to Water and Sanitation throughout their operations and value chain. The company should ensure that 100% of employees have access to clean drinking water, safe sanitation and appropriate hygiene in the workplace (WASH), as well as ensure that employees and value chain partners are implementing the company’s expectations for respecting the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.  The company should collaborate with the local community and its decision-makers to help support efforts to provide WASH throughout the community.  

✓ Engage Role Players

To capture the full breadth and depth of risks and opportunities related to protecting water and natural resources, companies should consider the role of various business units across the value chain and regularly engage with business unit leaders to analyze the positive and negative impacts that the companies activities, products and partnerships have on various ecosystems.  Upstream, natural resource protection and restoration opportunities may take the form of working with suppliers to eliminate pollutants and chemicals of concern from the components that make up the company’s products and services.  Downstream, these opportunities may take the form of  working with customers to reverse logistics and develop processes to bring valuable inputs and materials back into the supply chain. Engaging business unit leaders will uncover better solutions and make the process of establishing workforce accountability easier.  Concurrently, business unit leaders and senior management need to establish fluid lines of communication and disseminate key risks and opportunities into clear messaging that will engage board members. Complementary board oversight and accountability from the top down will support the integration of sustainability priorities across the business, informing strategic and annual planning and ensuring the proper allocation of resources for achieving stated goals. 

✓ Connect the Dots

To assess where water and natural resources stress is greatest, companies will leverage third party validated data sets and tools to identify the risks facing ecosystems in areas where direct operations, supplier facilities and key commodities are located. This assessment will analyze both the conditions of those regions and watersheds and the impacts that the company’s operations and business activities pose to the region, watershed and local stakeholders. The assessment will include analysis of current and projected water and natural resource scarcity and quality challenges and related impacts under future climate scenarios, including regulatory, reputational, community and physical risks. 

✓ Establish Policies

For companies to decouple business growth from the consumption of natural resources and commit to becoming resource positive, they will need to first establish company wide policies that support the intention to reduce activities that impact water and natural resources throughout the value chain. Based on the company’s business model and structure, the depth and complexity of these policies will vary, but they should first be implemented in areas of the value chain that have the largest absolute impact.  

✓ Build a Management System Designed for Evolution

Once policies and procedures are designed to address the identified impacts and risks, performance must be measured as part of a comprehensive management system to ensure that processes are driving towards intended outcomes and that management has the data available to make informed decisions.  Companies should develop processes and tools as part of their management systems to monitor the performance and effectiveness of departments and develop sector-relevant key performance indicators that measure progress to ensure alignment between commitments, operations, relationships and investments.  As part of a complete management system, companies should create processes to address instances of non-compliance and make efforts to address the root causes of the adverse impacts identified.

Disclosing Progress

Disclosure establishes accountability, provides a foundation for engagement and serves as a platform for demonstrating priorities, process and progress. See the Transparency and Disclosure section of Ceres Roadmap 2030 on how to make all of your disclosures complete, credible and decision-useful.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards and the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) are two disclosure tools widely recognized as standards for guiding comparable sustainability disclosure. Disclosure related to corporate efforts to protect water and natural resources should also be guided by two additional disclosure resources that help to strengthen corporate disclosure and meet the expectations of stakeholders, in particular investors: the CEO Water Mandate Corporate Disclosure Guidelines and the CDP Water Scarcity Questionnaire (CDP-W)

The CEO Water Mandate has developed water disclosure guidelines that offer a common approach for  how companies report their water management practices while helping to minimize reporting burden.  The guidelines are industry agnostic. They walk users through a comprehensive framework on how to approach corporate water management disclosure and offer disclosure details through basic and advanced guidance.  

Companies and investors recognize CDP disclosures for their comprehensiveness and detailed information. More than 8,000 companies disclose to CDP, while over 500 investors with assets totaling more than $100 trillion request data from CDP. The CDP-W comes in two versions: a minimum version and a full version that includes sector specific questions.  Either the minimum or the full version can be used to calculate a company’s CDP score. The questionnaires allow companies to provide structured details pertaining to how they are addressing and managing water scarcity impacts.  The questionnaire and scoring process is performed annually, giving stakeholders the opportunity to monitor water commitment progress on a regular basis.

The CDP-W recently mapped specific sections of the questionnaire to the CEO Water Mandate and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This makes reporting across multiple frameworks easier, while also creating space for companies to provide more granular details with respect to water governance, strategy, risk assessments, projects, goals and metrics across locations, facilities and the value chain.

Increasingly, the investment community is calling on companies to conduct climate scenario analysis to better understand current and potential risk to the business. As the financial risks related to water impacts become better understood, companies should proactively link and disclose their physical water risk analysis to the climate scenario analysis as well as provide transparency into the risk assessment and management processes related to water. As disclosure requirements and investor expectations evolve for water risk, companies should specifically be reporting on the following policies and metrics: 

  • Supplier and operations policies that guide water usage and pollutants of concern
  • Locally relevant data for their context-based water targets in watersheds with high water stress, rather than as part of aggregate water data
  • Regional and facility level data across shared global supply chains

When it comes to disclosing information pertaining to natural resources, specifics will vary based on the company’s industry or the materials and resources used in its products or services.  GRI recently released updated guidance on waste that can be applied to any company. However, stakeholders will want to see that companies are evaluating and disclosing information about key resources, the implications of their use and potential solutions for reducing risk and generating value.  Some examples of key resources that should be disclosed include: metals, minerals, chemicals, fibers and textiles, animal products and agricultural commodities.

Additional Disclosure Resources

Ceres: Disclose What Matters - Analysis of sustainability disclosures of the world's largest companies, with recommendations for bridging the gap to provide executable, relevant information to investors.


With respect to natural resource protection and restoration, there are many programs, resources and materials available to help guide companies. Below is a list of some key resources:
Ceres: Engage the Chain - An interactive web-based report that provides an overview of the environmental and social risks and impacts of eight commonly sourced agricultural commodities: beef, corn, dairy, fiber-based packaging, palm oil, soybeans, sugarcane and wheat. Engage the Chain also clarifies actions investors and companies should take to reduce agricultural supply chain exposure.

Ellen McArthur Foundation: What is the Circular Economy? - This resource explains the circular economy based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Circulytics - A measurement tool that supports a company’s transition towards the circular economy, regardless of industry, complexity and size. Going beyond assessing products and material flows, this company-level measuring tool reveals the extent to which a company has achieved circularity across its entire operations.

WBCSD: Circular Transition Indicators -  A framework for assessing a company’s circularity and quantifying the value of shifting towards more circular approaches.

Companies in Action

Starbucks sets ambitious 2030 targets setting the company on a path to become resource positive. Companies are rethinking the way they are setting sustainability strategies and goals to reflect the magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis. As the Seattle-based coffee house approaches its 50th anniversary in 2021, the company is launching a bold new vision to become resource positive —storing more carbon than it emits, eliminating waste and providing more clean, freshwater than it uses. In a quest to generate transformational change and give more back to the planet than it takes, the company is releasing three preliminary 2030 targets; reduce carbon emissions in its operations and supply chain by 50%, conserve or replenish 50% of water withdrawn for direct operations and coffee production and achieve a 50% reduction in waste sent to landfill from stores and manufacturing. To help develop specific strategies, the company partnered with the World Wildlife Fund and Quantis to quantify—for the first time—the carbon, waste and water footprint of its operations and supply chain. Starbucks will continue to work with the Science Based Target Initiative to help track progress.

Danone aims to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy with its 2025 goals. A circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design and aims to keep products and materials at their highest value at all times. Looking to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy, Danone has committed to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025. In 2019, the company reported that it had already transitioned 87% of its packaging to this standard. To achieve its overall goal, the company is shifting to materials with higher recycling rates, phasing out certain materials, such as PVC packaging, by 2021 and designing products to optimize material use and reduce waste. A signatory to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, Danone is actively collaborating with peer companies, NGOs and public authorities to address this broader challenge. The company is focused on working with key stakeholders in its top markets to strengthen collection and recycling systems that complement the company's efforts. As part of this work, Danone has invested over $5 million in the Closed Loop Fund to develop large scale recycling infrastructure in the United States and is eager to invest in similar projects in other markets.

Amazon commits to spending $100m on nature-based solutions through the Right Now Climate Fund. Leading companies are tapping into the environmental and economic opportunities of nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. Amazon has committed to invest $100 million in nature-based solutions as part of its strategy for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. Amazon announced the Right Now Climate Fund’s first investment would include $10 million to restore and conserve 4 million acres of forest land across the Appalachian Mountains. Working with The Nature Conservancy, the fund will be used to help family farmers invest in reforestation and carbon sequestration projects, with the expectation of achieving a net reduction of up to 18.5 million metric tons of CO2 by 2031. With the company’s recent commitment of $4m to the Nature Conservancy’s Urban Greening program in Germany, Amazon is investing in nature-based solutions outside of the U.S. as well. The program's aims include the reduction of flood and extreme heat risk through tree planting, the revitalization of urban wetlands and water bodies and an increase in urban biodiversity. Lessons from the program are intended to be used to help The Nature Conservancy create and share a guide for urban greening that can be used across Europe.