May 19, 2014 • By

Addressing climate change

Climate change is a serious issue.

As a food company, we are very aware of the impact climate change could have on agriculture and the world’s food supply. Temperatures will rise. Weather patterns will be disrupted. Severe weather events, such as flooding and drought, will occur with increasing frequency and intensity. If not addressed, climate change could have devastating effects on crop yields, food availability and more.

All this, as the world’s population is projected to grow to more than 8 billion by 2030 – requiring 50 percent more food globally.

Addressing climate change is imperative to the long-term health of our company – and to each of us as individuals.

We’ve been taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our operations and in agriculture for years. General Mills has had specific GHG reduction targets for our own operations since 2005.

In 2009, we added a specific transportation fuel usage target. Specifically, we’ve pledged to reduce GHG emissions in our direct operations by 20 percent by 2015, and to reduce transportation fuel usage rates by 35 percent by 2015.

GHG goals

These goals are part of our overall commitment to reducing our environmental footprint – and we’re making progress.

For example, we were pleased to see our energy reduction efforts recognized by President Obama earlier this month. Through our energy audit program, we collect and share sustainability best practices across our locations, including optimization of dryers, ovens and freezers; heating and cooling system improvements; and lighting innovations.

Measuring and Reducing GHG emissions

As we outline in our Global Responsibility Report, 41 percent of the GHG emissions associated with our products come from agriculture, while 14 percent come from packaging production, and seven percent come from other ingredient production. Only eight percent comes from our own direct operations.

Which is why we’re also working to measure and reduce GHG emissions outside our direct operations.

For example, we’re working with the Michigan Milk Producers Association to pilot the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy Sustainability Council Farmsmart Framework to measure the carbon footprint of milk production and processing.

Through our leadership in Field to Market, we’re also addressing GHG emissions stemming from U.S. row crops. Just last month, we announced an expanded commitment to Field to Market, including reducing the environmental impact of agriculture through continuous improvement, and by measuring year-on-year improvements.

Farmers see the changing landscape and feel the effects of these changes on their business. So, they’re eager to work with General Mills and others to be more efficient in land use, soil conservation, water use, energy use and to reduce GHG emissions through efforts like Field to Market.

Zero Deforestation

Deforestation is a major contributor to global climate change, accounting for an estimated 15 percent of global GHG emissions. Which is why General Mills committed to source 100 percent of our palm oil from responsible and sustainable sources by 2015.

When it was announced, our palm oil commitment was viewed as “best in class,” and it’s one we’re on track to meet. We’re sourcing more than 50 percent of our palm oil sustainably today, and by the end of this calendar year we expect that number to be 75 percent, with our 100 percent goal increasingly in sight.

Deforestation is also an issue in packaging. Because we use primarily recycled materials in our paperboard packaging – and source virgin fibers only from regions where deforestation is not occurring – 99 percent of our fiber supply is considered “low risk” relative to deforestation. But we continue to work on the remaining one percent by engaging Rainforest Alliance to review our fiber sources to confirm our sustainable sourcing practices.


General Mills regularly reports GHG emissions from direct operations and our climate change strategies through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), where we’ve been an active participant since its inception in 2000. Continuing our progress, General Mills improved our CDP climate change disclosure score by 10 points in 2013, relative to 2012, and raised our overall performance rating to a B.

Advocating for Climate Policy

Given the magnitude of climate change, we know that collaboration, sharing of best practices and reporting will continue to be essential – which is why we also detail our climate change goals and performance in our Global Responsibility Report.

Environmental dashboard

We’re very engaged externally in positively influencing climate policy. Through initiatives such as The Consumer Goods Forum, working toward deforestation commitments as a member of the steering committee, or engaging governments in Asia and Africa via the Tropical Forest Alliance, General Mills has been a consistent voice on this issue.

Whether it’s engaging governments in Indonesia or Malaysia as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or in Europe as a member of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative, General Mills is adding our voice to the chorus of concerned companies working to address this important issue.

Some would ask us to do more – and we stand open to input, of course. We’ll also continue to work broadly with stakeholders to strengthen our efforts, as we always have.

We can all do more. We’ll acknowledge that.

But we believe our track record is clear.

We’ve made commitments. We’ve taken clear positions. We’re tracking our progress and reporting it transparently. Because we understand the importance of this issue.

Make no mistake. We’re in it to make a difference.