GreenMoney Interviews: Kirsten James on Ceres’ Valuing Water Finance Initiative

Apr 8, 2024 10:00 AM ET

As the global water crisis worsens, so do financial risks facing companies and their investors. Kirsten James, senior program director of water at the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, answers questions from Cliff Feigenbaum, GreenMoney founder about the Valuing Water Finance Initiative, which is a global, investor-led effort driving companies to prioritize water risk and act as responsible water stewards in their operations and supply chains.

Cliff: What work has Ceres done related to water?

Kirsten: Freshwater is essential for people, ecosystems, and business. Growing water scarcity and pollution is threatening these systems and slowing the pathway to a climate resilient future. Research shows we’ll be unable to meet even 56 percent of global water demand by 2030. No industry is immune from financial risks stemming from this crisis.

Seeing this writing on the wall, we’ve spent more than a decade establishing the business case for the private sector to act on water risk. We’ve worked closely with investors on integrating water risk into their investment decisions and developed resources to help them understand water risk in their portfolios. Our research and corporate benchmarking has shed light on industry practices threatening freshwater supplies and how companies are responding. This information has empowered investors with the guidance and the data they need to evaluate how companies are managing water risk.

Cliff: How did this work pave the way for the Valuing Water Finance Initiative?

Kirsten: Through this pioneering work we did on water risk, we saw the need for ambitious action to match the scope of the water crisis and the systemic risks affecting communities, nature, and economies. We developed the Valuing Water Finance Initiative, aimed at driving companies to make water risk and water management a priority in their business strategies. Because water is key to their success as a business.

This work is hitting home with investors and the initiative has taken off. Just two years after we launched it, nearly 100 investors representing more than $17 trillion in assets have joined. These investors are committing to engage with 72 large companies from four water-intensive industries—food, beverage, apparel, and high-tech—on their water management practices.

Read the full interview here -