General Mills makes new commitment on climate change
Climate change is often described as one of the most pressing environmental issues that our society faces today.
As a company, we have long been committed to being a part of the solution on climate change.
Today, we’re furthering that commitment by announcing a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our entire value chain – from farm to fork to landfill – over the next 10 years.
Our goal, developed using science-based methodology, is an ambitious one: a 28 percent absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Additionally, our long term aspiration is to achieve sustainable emission levels in line with scientific consensus by 2050.
I sat down with Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills, to get his insights on what this goal means to our business and how we’ll get there.
First, tell me a little about why climate change is of interest to General Mills.
Jerry: Climate plays a significant role in the long-term viability of our business. For example, changes in climate have an impact on weather conditions such as drought, floods and excessive heat, all of which can decrease yields on our raw materials like corn, oats and wheat.
Changing weather patterns can also impact our ability to deliver quality products to our consumers and value to our shareholders. As a global food company, we recognize the need to mitigate the risks climate change present to humanity, our environment and our livelihoods long term.
How did you land on the reduction goal of 28 percent?
Jerry: We worked closely with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) to calculate a science-based goal. And by this I mean that we did not approach this asking ourselves what could we do to reduce our carbon footprint? Rather, we asked ourselves: what does science tell us our role is in preventing the worst impacts of climate change?
Looking beyond 2025, our long term aspiration is to achieve sustainable emission levels in line with scientific consensus by 2050. That consensus tells us that the average global temperature increase must remain below 2°C (3.6°F) in order to safeguard the well-being of people and the planet for future generations.
Tell me about some of the actions General Mills will take to accomplish this goal by 2025.
Jerry: Climate change is a shared, global challenge that is best addressed at scale. So, first and foremost, the key to accomplishing our 2025 absolute greenhouse gas reduction goal will be collaboration with stakeholders across our value chain, including growers, suppliers, industry groups, customers, as well as other partners.
Secondly, the actions that will get us to our goal will accelerate what we’re currently doing to reduce our environmental footprint within and upstream of our direct operations. We outline this approach in our corporate climate policy.
We have been working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our operations for more than a decade. Since 2005, we have reduced absolute emissions within our direct operations by 13 percent. However, given that nearly two-thirds of General Mills’ greenhouse gas emissions throughout our value chain occur upstream of our direct operations, primarily in agriculture, we’ve also been focused on advancing sustainable agriculture.
As part of our sustainable sourcing strategy, General Mills plays a large role in Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a stakeholder roundtable whose goal is to help growers assess their environmental footprint and adopt sustainable farming practices. By leveraging the Field to Market framework, growers are able to collect data that will help to guide everyday decisions related to irrigation, tillage, crop rotation and nutrient management as they consider the impacts on water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, soil loss and energy use.
It’s partnerships like this that will be vital to putting our commitments into action across our value chain.
And finally, why is General Mills choosing to make this commitment now?
Jerry: As the world’s leaders prepare for the UN-led 2015 Paris Climate Conference in December, climate change is top of mind for many right now. We believe by advancing our commitment now, we have an opportunity to encourage others to do the same, establish new partnerships, and together, make real progress towards more sustainable emission levels.
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 Versus 2010 baseline