Minneapolis-based General Mills announced a commitment to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 28% across its full value chain—from farm to fork to landfill—over the next 10 years. The commitment was calculated using science-based methodology to achieve a level of emission reductions that science suggests is necessary to sustain the health of the planet.
General Mills’ long-term aspiration is to achieve sustainable emission levels in line with scientific consensus by 2050.
“For 150 years, General Mills has served the world by making food people love. Our aim is to be around for another 150 years,” says Ken Powell, chairman and CEO. “We recognize that we must do our part to protect and conserve natural resources. Our business depends on it and so does the planet.”
“General Mills’ commitment will support greater ambition and impact across the industry,” says Eric Olson, senior vice president of advisory services at Business for Social Responsibility, a New York-based sustainable business network and consultancy that worked closely with General Mills to develop the company’s new commitment. “By establishing specific time-bound targets that embrace the full value chain, General Mills is in effect doubling down on their commitment to bring new innovation and partnerships with industry peers, suppliers, farmers and other stakeholders, which will be critical to the company’s long-term success.”
The company’s focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions formally began within its direct operations in 2005. Over the last 10 years, General Mills has reduced absolute emissions within its operations by 13% by using energy more efficiently across its facilities and converting to less greenhouse gas-intensive forms of energy.
However, nearly two-thirds of the company’s total greenhouse gas emissions occur upstream of its direct operations.
“We know our greatest impact is outside our four walls—particularly in agriculture, ingredients and packaging. To reduce emission levels, we must work across our value chain with growers, suppliers, customers and industry partners. Together, we will identify new solutions and promote sustainable agriculture practices that drive emission reductions,” adds Powell.
In 2013, General Mills made a commitment to sustainably source 100% of its 10 priority ingredients by 2020. These ingredients represent 50% of the company’s total raw material purchases and have a significant impact on its total environmental footprint. As part of this commitment, the company works closely with suppliers and farmers to strengthen sustainable farming practices. This work addresses key growing dimensions, including GHG emission reduction, water management and soil quality to establish more climate-resilient farms.
“Our pathways to achieving sustainable emissions will not revolutionize our business. Rather, it will be an extension of our ongoing efforts to reduce our environmental footprint through continuous improvement sustainable sourcing,” says Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer.
In addition to broadening existing partnerships with organizations like Field to Market, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and others, the company outlined four specific actions to help fulfill its climate commitment over the next 10 years, including:
- Continue to lead the way in its own direct operations by investing more than $100 billion in energy efficiency and clean energy.
- Partner with suppliers to accelerate adoption of more sustainable agriculture practices that build climate-resilient healthy soils.
- Help consumers reduce their carbon footprint through products and packaging with smaller footprints.
- Support climate resiliency of farmers in the supply chain.
“While our success depends on our actions, we cannot get there on our own. We believe every company, government and individual has a role to play,” says Powell. “Climate change is a shared global challenge that is best addressed at scale.”