Dec 15, 2014 • By

Making progress on our sourcing commitment

As General Mills’ CEO Ken Powell said during his remarks at The Nature Conservancy’s Global Water Summit last month, “As a food company … we’re tied tightly to nature.”

Truly, if Mother Nature fails to work well, our business, and society as a whole, will face challenges greater than we’ve ever seen before.

Recognizing the importance of sustaining our business for the long-term and doing our part to protect the world’s natural resources, in 2013, we committed to sustainably source 100 percent of our 10 priority ingredients by 2020. We are also committed to advancing responsible sourcing practices that respect human rights and protect animal welfare.

Our 10 priority ingredients represent 50 percent of our total raw material purchases and include the following ingredients: cocoa, corn, dairy, fiber packaging, oats, palm oil, sugar beets, sugarcane, vanilla and wheat.


Nearly two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions and 99 percent of water use occur outside General Mills’ operations, primarily in agriculture. As a result, we are focusing on sustainable sourcing, tackling the areas where we can have the most material impact.

Today, a little over a year into our commitment, we are furthest to our goal of 100 percent sustainably sourced on palm oil and fiber packaging.

We are 83 percent sustainably sourced on palm oil, though we’ve been tracking towards this goal since 2010, a bit ahead of our other priority ingredients. As reported in our recent Annual Communications of Progress submission to the RSPO, 41% of our purchases were mass-balance certified and 42% was through Green Palm certificates.

We intend to sustainably source our palm oil mostly through mass balance physical purchases by the end of 2015, rather than relying primarily on the use of green palm certificates. We are also working with suppliers to produce a more traceable supply by the end of 2015.

We are 99 percent sustainably sourced on fiber packaging. We plan to source 100 percent of our fiber packaging by 2020 from recycled material or from virgin wood fiber regions that are known to not be contributing to deforestation.

Additional progress has been made on the remaining ingredients as well.

The company’s approach is tailored for each ingredient and geography. Each raw material has been measured against dozens of potential risk categories, including animal welfare, child and forced labor, worker health and safety, economic sustainability, GHG emissions and other key environmental and social factors.

Additional examples of our progress to-date include:

North America Row Crops

Notably, more than 80 percent of the raw materials General Mills purchases are sourced from developed economies, including North American and Europe. For this reason, we are working with industry groups, our suppliers and growers to increase the sustainability of North American row crops. Through Field to Market (FTM), we are helping growers gather data about how their farming practices influence natural resources and outcomes on their farms, including efficient land use, soil conservation, water use, energy use and GHG emissions.


During the past year, General Mills announced that we will be expanding our support of Field to Market in partnership with Walmart, and also announced that we have helped identify new technologies through the Field to Market framework that will enable farmers to be more sustainable.


In developing economies, from which we source 20 percent of our raw materials, farmers face social, environmental and economic challenges.

The primary risk to the world’s long-term supply of vanilla is economic. Smallholder farmers often do not earn enough from their crops to feed their families. We work with smallholders, NGOs and industry partners to pursue sustainable development to address these challenges.


We are helping to improve incomes for smallholder vanilla farmers in Madagascar, the world’s leading producer of vanilla, and the primary source of the premium vanilla used in Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

Working with vanilla supplier Virginia Dare, Conservation International, the international humanitarian organization CARE and Madagascar-based NGO Fanamby, we are purchasing directly from farmers, providing economic incentive for them to produce high-quality vanilla beans and encourage future generations to continue growing vanilla.

Through this partnership, we are also teaching horticultural practices and training farmers to expand their skills – and incomes – by learning to cure the vanilla they grow. This is significantly increasing the farmers’ earnings. We plan to expand our program in 2015.


As with vanilla, one of the biggest challenges with cocoa is smallholder farmers’ incomes. Low productivity, crop loss due to pests or disease and degraded soil fertility must be addressed to improve farmer livelihoods and food security in cocoa farming communities. Helping families keep children in school rather than working on cocoa farms also is essential.


Again, in collaboration with farmers, suppliers and on the ground NGOs is critical to making progress.

In Ghana, West Africa, we are working with cocoa supplier Cargill and CARE to form village coops in 20 communities as part of a three-year commitment. We recognize the importance of farmer organization in strengthening livelihoods. The goal is to help improve the lives of 2,000 smallholder farmers and the quality and sustainability of the cocoa they grow.

In Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, we are partnering with cocoa supplier Barry Callebaut to help smallholder farmers grow cocoa more sustainably, increase yields, and improve their incomes and livelihoods.

The long term

A year into our sustainable sourcing commitment, we know that we are able to achieve the greatest impact by working by collaborating partners, NGOs and farmers to create and implement long-term solutions.

We are in this for the long term and will continue to innovate, scale and share best practices. Additionally, we will continue to communicate our progress in our annual Global Responsibility Report. The 2015 report will be released in April 2015.

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