Fessing up to water issues – and biofuel

April 14, 2009

Water scarcity is a growing risk for businesses and investors and companies should offer more transparency regarding their exposure to water shortages and other climate change concerns, according to investor group Ceres.

“There are still big challenges out there… but disclosure is dismal,” said Brooke Barton, manager for corporate accountability at Ceres, a Boston-based public interest coalition, which holds a conference on green investing in San Francisco this week.

Ceres directs a network of more than 75 institutional investors and financial firms from the U.S. and Europe managing over $7 trillion in assets focused on climate issues.

“Our investors see water risk as the first front of the climate crisis… and they are looking for tools to get a handle on the kind of water risks that are imbedded in their portfolios,” Barton said.

Production of biofuels, particularly corn ethanol, which the federal government is encouraging through a variety of incentives, only compounds water scarcity worries, according to a Ceres report commissioned from the Pacific Institute research group which is cited in our story on water and biofuel this week.

Corn ethanol production, from growing irrigated crops to pumping biofuel into a car, can consume 20 times as much water for every mile traveled compared to gasoline, according to the Ceres report.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Reuters picture by Kevin Sanders)

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