General Mills made “significant progress” in 2014 toward its commitment to sustainably source 100 percent of its 10 priority ingredients by 2020, according to the company’s annual Global Responsibility Report.
It is furthest along towards the goal of sustainably sourcing 100 percent of two raw materials: palm oil (83 percent) and fiber packaging (99 percent).
The 10 ingredients represent more than 50 percent of the company’s annual raw material purchases and cover a broad range of raw materials including oats, wheat, corn, dairy, fiber packaging, cocoa, vanilla, palm oil, sugar cane and sugar beets.
The company says its approach is tailored for each ingredient and geography. To date, each raw material has been measured against dozens of potential risk categories, including animal welfare, child and forced labor, worker health and safety, economic sustainability, greenhouse gas emissions and other key environmental and social factors. Though only 20 percent of General Mills’ raw materials are sourced in the global South, some 40 percent of the company’s 10 priority ingredients originate there.
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A new climate change and water conservation strategy
The report also highlights the company’s efforts to address climate change and water conservation, which were laid out in official corporate policies in 2014.
The climate change policy establishes a framework for General Mills' efforts to track and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across its broader value chain, as well as to work with suppliers to improve environmental, social and economic footprints within the supply chain.
Similarly, the corporate water policy provides a framework that guides General Mills’ engagement with stakeholders to improve the health of watersheds, particularly those in high risk regions where the company operates. The water policy also underscores the work of General Mills and its key partner, The Nature Conservancy, in eight of the company’s most material and most at-risk watersheds around the world.
General Mills recently joined a coalition of companies led by Ceres to launch a new campaign urging businesses to enact more aggressive measures to maximize California's local and state water resources.
Innovating to empower communities
Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), a nonprofit organization founded by General Mills that works to improve the capacity, efficiency and product quality of food companies in sub-Saharan Africa, launched in 2014 a “groundbreaking” initiative in nutrition and food security in Ethiopia, the report says. For the first time, local producers will begin fortifying wheat flour with the vitamins and minerals children need to develop and adults need to be healthy.
This was made possible by linking volunteer employees from General Mills, Cargill, DSM and Bühler with high-potential food processors in one of Ethiopia’s largest flour mills to develop the technology and processes needed to fortify flour effectively and safely. Volunteer experts shared business and technical expertise with their Ethiopian counterparts through email, Skype, a proprietary web platform and occasional visits.
Expanding the General Mills natural and organic product portfolio
With the addition of Annie’s in late 2014, General Mills is now the fourth-largest U.S. natural and organic food producer and is the second largest buyer of organic fruits and vegetables in the North American packaged foods sector.
General Mills says its natural and organic brands — including Annie’s, Cascadian Farm and LÄRABAR — also provide best practices that help to inform General Mills’ global sustainability efforts.