Watershed stewardship


We continue to apply our four-phase approach to conserve water use throughout our supply chain.

Almost 99 percent of the water consumed to create and distribute our products occurs outside our direct operations.

The watersheds we access to meet the needs of our facilities also support demands from agriculture, municipalities, other industries and ecosystems, so improving the health of these watersheds requires significant collaboration.

In 2014, General Mills became a founding partner of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) as part of our effort to promote the application of the AWS standard. 

In addition, we introduced a new water policy and signed the CEO Water Mandate, joining a group of business leaders, governments and other stakeholders working together with the United Nations to advance water stewardship.

path to watershed health graphic

Phase 1: Assessment

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), we have completed our global water risk assessment of all General Mills production facilities and growing regions, begun in 2012. 

Those assessments build on our supply chain risk analysis work with World Wildlife Fund in 2010. We now have a clear picture of the most at-risk watersheds within our supply chain and are proceeding with Phase 2.

We are targeting the most material and at-risk watersheds where we can have significant impact, focusing on those with challenges in the areas of water quantity and non-point source pollution from agriculture. 

We will use insights gained during the analysis phase to add or remove a watershed from our focus list as needed.

Phase 2: Analysis

Working with TNC hydrologists, we are conducting deep analyses of our key at-risk facilities and growing areas:

  • In Irapuato, Mexico, where some of our Green Giant vegetables are grown and packaged, we have completed our in-depth analysis and are now developing action plans to enable stabilization and eventually improvement in watershed health.
  • In a key wheat growing region of Idaho, United States, we have conducted an in-depth review of the Snake River watershed. We shared this detailed analysis with regional stakeholders and are exploring next steps in collaboration.
  • In China, an important growth area for General Mills where we currently make Wanchai Ferry dumplings and are building a new Yoplait® yogurt production facility, we are assessing the Yangtze River watershed area. We will complete this analysis in 2015. 
  • In California, we are tapping into existing analyses of water needs and engaging with industry and NGO stakeholders to understand where we can provide the most impactful action during this time of historic drought. 
  • We have begun an analysis of the watershed surrounding our Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States, facility, working closely with local TNC staff to understand the unique challenges of a municipality that sources water far beyond city, and even state, boundaries. 

We will continue to expand the focus of our deep-dive analyses to include our remaining priority watersheds over the next several years. 

We are beginning to collaborate with other food and beverage companies about improving watershed health. 

Next, we plan to expand those conversations to include a broader mix of private and public entities in each watershed area.

Phase 3: Collaboration

We are beginning to meet our goal of finding the right partners and working with others to implement changes based on our Phase 2 analyses in high-risk areas.

We are currently working with FEMSA Foundation and TNC to model a specific action plan for the watershed surrounding our Irapuato, Mexico, facility. We plan to include stakeholders, including local communities, in that effort in 2015.

We anticipate our collaborative actions will include: on-the-ground conservation initiatives; applying water stewardship best practices; and setting companywide sustainability targets.

Phase 4: Transformation

Transformation efforts include developing a global freshwater stewardship program with public education and advocacy, and funding, as well as monitoring and reporting on the positive impact of the strategy implementation. We also will work with others to apply the principles of the Alliance for Water Stewardship.

Learn more

2016 Annual Report

150 years of growth 

Global Responsibility

2016 report