On Monday, General Mills announced a commitment to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent 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. As outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), consensus suggests a reduction of 50-70 percent in absolute emissions 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,” said Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills. “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,” said Eric Olson, SVP of Advisory Services at Business for Social Responsibility, the 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 percent. The company accomplished this by using energy more efficiently across its facilities and by 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,” Powell added.
In 2013, General Mills committed to sustainably source 100 percent of its 10 priority ingredients by 2020. These ingredients represent 50 percent 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 in an effort 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 in sustainable sourcing,” said Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills.
In addition, reducing its environmental footprint is an ongoing commitment — one that General Mills will not undertake alone.
In addition to broadening existing partnerships with organizations such as Field to Market, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and others, the company has 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 $100M in energy efficiency and clean energy. The company says this level of investment is in line with the work it has done within its operations to reduce its environmental footprint since 2005.
- 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 its 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,” Powell said. “Climate change is a shared, global challenge that is best addressed at scale.”