Sep 07, 2011 • By

Sustainability is good business

It’s been about 30 years since the phrase “sustainable development” made its way into the American business vernacular, bringing with it environmental, social and economic implications.

However, General Mills has long been ahead of the curve on environmental stewardship: We began using recycled paperboard packaging back in the 1930s.

Here in 2011, General Mills is a lot more formal about our environmental policies. In fact, we now have established teams dedicated to keeping us ahead of the curve in our sustainability practices. I am very proud to have been assigned to one such team — the Applied Sustainability Team — led by Chief Sustainability Officer Jerry Lynch and focused solely on applying environmental sustainability practices to our business.

Our group’s Environmental Sustainability Mission Statement captures the essence of what we do:

General Mills is committed to protect and conserve the natural resource base our business depends upon by continuously improving our environmental performance. We build consumer loyalty, societal trust and shareholder value by integrating sustainability into our strategies, our operations and our products.

My role at General Mills, and within the Applied Sustainability Team, is that of director of Customer Sustainability.

There are some skeptics out there, I know — those who think business-people are too bottom-line driven to take more than a passing interest in sustainability concerns.

The fact is, sustainability is good for business. There is a cost benefit, a reputational benefit, and a topline sales benefit. All three of these benefits are not necessarily easy to secure, but we have seen great examples and expect to continue to see more of all three in the near and medium term.

As a 28-year veteran of the Consumer Foods Sales division, I know how frequently the sustainability of General Mills’ agriculture, production, packaging and supply chain practices came up in my conversations with our retail customers.

We’ve been talking about this for years with our customers, fully engaging in their own sustainability initiatives.

Companies that ignore sustainability do so at their own peril.

I encourage you to follow the sustainability category here on “A Taste of General Mills.”

And I’d love to hear your thoughts on sustainability efforts that you’ve seen in businesses of all kinds.