Apr 30, 2013 • By

Brainstorming a greener future with Fortune

General Mills Chairman and CEO Ken Powell took the stage at Fortune Brainstorm Green in Laguna Nigel, Calif., Tuesday to talk about the role General Mills and other responsible food companies play in sustainably managing and growing the global food supply.

Ken spoke one-on-one with sustainability journalist and conference moderator Marc Gunther. Ken described General Mills’ approach to responsibility as “Holistic Value Creation” – a model to create value for the business, its suppliers and the community.

“When we talk about holistic value creation, we’re thinking about what we can do along the entire supply chain to benefit everybody who’s involved, both for economic benefits and for sustainability benefits,” Ken said.

Photos courtesy: Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm Green

Marc noted the release of General Mills 2013 Global Responsibility Report, and inquired what General Mills is doing to make improvements along its value chain, noting that nearly two-thirds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 99 percent of water use occurs upstream from General Mills’ operations, primarily in agriculture.

Ken explained how General Mills is actively working with our top 100 U.S. suppliers and our top 15 European suppliers on our “supplier scorecard,” and we plan to increase our collaboration with suppliers around reducing energy use, water use, solid waste generation and GHG emissions.

He also painted a compelling picture about what companies like General Mills can do to mitigate the growing food security challenge. Ken explained that a growing global middle class puts more pressure on food resources as people seek to improve their diets.

“We know that that demand is coming, and we know we’re going to need to increase yields. We know that we’re going to have to develop improved agricultural infrastructure around the world – whether it’s roads or better post-harvest management so there’s less waste. And we’re going to need technology. We’re going to need higher yielding grains in order to meet demand.”

Read the transcript from Ken’s discussion with Marc at Fortune Brainstorm Green — as well as our announcement about the release of this year’s Global Responsibility report.

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  • Stacy

    You people are all a bunch of hype. If you were really all about sustainability, you would label your GMO foods. It goes back to one thing – MONEY. Companies and the government are not doing what consumers want (mandatory labeling of GMOs), they are doing what lines their pockets. Well, I for one, am going to vote with my wallet and not buy and more General Mills products, just as I with Kraft. Maybe if everyone started voting with their wallets, you would wake up and smell the coffee.

    • Paul Helgeson


      Can you help me understand why GMO labeling is so critical to sustainability?

  • Barb

    As a consumer, I sincerely appreciate your question “help me understand why…” Dialogue is more productive than accusations. My answer to your ‘why’ question is that ONCE YOU MAKE A GMO (e.g. corn with altered DNA), YOU CANNOT ‘UNMAKE IT’ because the pollen from those plants naturally travels and crosses with other non-GMO plants and breeds seeds for next year’s crop. IF JUST 1 BATCH was a bad mistake that results in a deadly strain, then the human race (and every living thing that feeds off of that commodity) will be slowly, painfully, affected. I AM VERY CONCERNED about GMOs in my family’s food – primarily because there is no real accountability for ‘what’ DNA is spliced into these commodities (e.g. reptile DNA combats corn smut – but seed companies aren’t required to disclose this due to ‘trade secrets’ law) and the inadequate safety testing period (3 months equates to less than 20% of the lifespan of mice – i.e. less than 15 human years). GMO labeling is just the first step to eventually requiring better disclosure and standards around the making of GMOs. I’m not against GMOs (I recognize that we need to improve yield to feed the growing population), but I am against BAD GMOs – unfortunately today there is no way to tell the difference.