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General Mills Takes Stand on Water Security

General Mills released a new water policy this week that factors water risk considerations into business decisions, including where to locate new facilities. A primary aim is to improve the health of watersheds—particularly those critical to the company’s business.

Last night at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Global Water Summit, General Mills chairman and CEO Ken Powell spoke about the company’s efforts to conserve and protect global water resources critical to the business. He shared the company’s journey of “über-collaboration” with stakeholders to improve the health of watersheds and announced significant steps the company is taking to ensure freshwater for future generations.

“As a food company, food security is important to us, and we’re tied tightly to nature,” Powell said. “We know that without healthy water for land, ecosystems and wildlife, agriculture simply does not work. Businesses languish. Economies falter. People suffer.”

The scope of the water policy includes General Mills’ supply chain as well as its suppliers, and will be overseen by the company’s Sustainability Governance Committee, led by Powell.

Powell also announced General Mills’ signing of The CEO Water Mandate, a public-private initiative launched in 2007 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to encourage companies to develop, implement and disclose water sustainability policies and practices. Endorsers of The CEO Water Mandate acknowledge that through individual and collective action they can contribute to the vision of the UN Global Compact and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

“These initiatives put us on the record as doing our part,” said Powell. “They also help us learn and collaborate, yielding a bigger impact than we could ever have alone.”

Earlier this year, General Mills joined the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) as a founding partner in support of an international standard for sustainable use of the world’s limited freshwater resources. AWS offers a variety of ways to improve, incentivize and recognize responsible water use, including helping members engage key stakeholders within their watershed and supply chain.

This year General Mills also joined BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy) to help advocate for innovative climate and clean energy policies. BICEP, a project of Ceres, was launched in 2008 with a core group of five companies, including Starbucks, Nike, and Timberland. It has since expanded to 31 members including eBay Inc., Symantec, Patagonia, Seventh Generation, VF Corporation, Jones Lang LaSalle and now General Mills, and represent a broad spectrum of business sectors. BICEP members have been vocal proponents of renewable energy, greener transportation, and stricter pollution controls on power plants — the coalition’s Climate Declaration is now backed by over 100 leading companies.