Group targets water risk management

A coalition of 60 institutional investors has sent letters to 15 publicly traded food companies, including Austin-based Hormel Foods Corp., requesting increased disclosure on how companies are managing clean water risks.

The letters are based on a report by Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit that advocates for sustainable business practices. Ceres conducted the research — which was underwritten by Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation, among other sources — with environmental, social and governance investment research firm Sustainalytics.

The 60 investors are a mix of socially conscious investors and larger mainstream investors. Together, they have $1.9 trillion in assets under management and believe that water risk management is critical to the financial oversight of food and beverage companies.

In a year with several drought-stricken West Coast states, Ceres recommended that companies need better oversight and understanding of water risks, including watershed levels and the relationship between the water and their agricultural supply chains.

In the letter to Hormel, investors commended the company for setting a goal to reduce water use by 10 percent by 2020, but want more disclosure and transparency regarding their water risks. They've asked Hormel to disclose the results of the annual Carbon Disclosure Project's water questionnaire, a standardized questionnaire around corporate water programs. In past years, Hormel did not make results available.

Hormel is taking steps toward increased transparency. A spokesman, via e-mail, told the Star Tribune that the 2015 questionnaire was recently submitted and that it will be publicly available after the CDP releases its report.

"Our organization will continue to focus on water program management and intends to continue CDP water disclosure in subsequent years," Hormel said.


Crystal repeals inspection requirement

Supporters of efforts to roll back municipal point-of-sale home inspection requirements in the Twin Cities scored another victory this week when the Crystal City Council voted to repeal its ordinance.

Such regulations require that at the time of listing or before a closing, the city must perform an inspection on the home. The scope of those inspections varies from city to city, and some cities may require that some or all of the items noted on the inspection be repaired before the property can be sold.

Brooklyn Park has already repealed its ordinance, but 12 cities, including Hopkins, Minneapolis and New Hope, still have some variation of such requirements. Crystal's repeal is effective on Sept. 26.