Public Engagement for the Greater Good
At one of the world's largest food companies, General Mills plays an important role in the everyday lives of people around the world. One important way we do this is by engaging in the public sphere, adding our voice to important discussions on public policies to improve the lives of our consumers.
Our public engagement is focused in five key areas:
Our sustainability mission is to treat the world with care. Our focus areas include combating climate change, advancing water stewardship, sourcing our ingredients sustainably, and improving the health of ecosystems in our supply chain.
We actively engage in public policy discussions to advance these environmental priorities, including the following actions:
- Leading on Regenerative and Sustainable Agriculture
- General Mills is leading the charge on regenerative and sustainable agriculture, with industry-leading investments to help transition our supply chain to more sustainable practices. Read more our work here.
- Policy is critical tool to advance this work. General Mills is a leading voice on regenerative agriculture and encourage the U.S. Congress to strengthen collaboration between organizations, components of our supply chains and domestic agriculture producers to meet ambitious sustainability goals we have set for ourselves.
- We strongly support the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which relies on existing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) authorities to invest in agricultural conservation efforts and leverages private-sector financial and technical resources, resulting in a multiplying effect unparalleled in other federal programs. Read our letter to Congress here.
- Combating Climate Change
- General Mills has been a leader in recognizing the impacts of climate change to our planet, and our business. We have established industry-leading, science-based targets for carbon reduction – read more here.
- Our policy work on climate change builds on this leadership:
- We have publicly called for the U.S. to remain in the Paris Climate Accord, and have publicly supported the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
- We are members of BICEP – Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, a business coalition advocating for stronger climate and clean energy policies at the state and federal level in the U.S., including the follow public actions:
- RCPP Farm Bill Support Letter – March 2018
- LCUSA Paris Agreement Letter to President Trump – February 2017
- Missouri PPA and Green Tariff Business Support Letter – December 2017
- Joint Companies Statement Supporting Stronger Truck Standards – May 2016
- Join Companies Statement: 'Business Backs Low Carbon USA' / CPP – May 2016
- Michigan Support Letter for a 15% Renewable Energy Standards by 2021 – November 2016
- Michigan Increase Renewable Energy Standard Support Letter – April 2016
- Low Carbon USA Paris Agreement Letter to President Trump – February 2016
- Minnesota Support Letter for joining Governor's Accord – March 2016
- Michigan Support Letter for Clean Energy – October 2015
- Michigan Support Letter for Implementation of Carbon Pollution Standards – July 2015
- Michigan Support Letter for renewable energy and energy efficiency standards – May 2015
- Supporting Strong Organic Standards
- We’re proud of our long history of engagement to develop strong, national U.S. organic standards, and have fought to promote and protect the integrity of the standard and advance its continuous improvement.
- We support efforts to increase U.S. organic acreage through strategic engagements and by building infrastructure for farmers, including, but not limited to applied research, extension, and education/outreach.
- We strongly support the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and the critical role it plays in the organic industry, and in 2018 our organic brands – Annie’s and Cascadian Farm – joined in calling on Congress to continue to support NOSB during its deliberations.
- o Annie’s, Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen joined a letter to Congress in 2018 urging them to support funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which seeks to solve critical organic agriculture issues, priorities, or problems through the integration of research, education, and extension activities.
- Advancing Water Stewardship
- As a global food company, water is critical to our business. We take a broad approach to water stewardship, looking beyond our company’s walls to the phases of our value chain that drive overall use.
- We also engage policy makers to drive more sustainable water practices. Examples include our membership in the California Water Action Collaborative, a platform for diverse stakeholders to come together and pursue collective action projects that will improve water security in California for people, business, agriculture and nature, and Connect the Drops, which educates California lawmakers about such efforts and advocates for policy solutions there.
- Addressing Packaging and Food Waste
- General Mills promotes policies to effectively and efficiently increase packaging recycling rates and reduce waste – you can read more about our global packaging ambitions here. In the United States, we are a leader in the AMERIPEN – the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment – which conducts research and advocates for policy changes to achieve these goals. In 2017, AMERIPEN was active in addressing state policy including California, Connecticut and Michigan.
- General Mills is actively engaged in a host of multi-sector as well as industry coalitions aimed at reducing and ending food waste and loss.
- The Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a partnership of U.S. food manufacturers, grocery retailers and restaurants and foodservice companies.
- The International Food Waste Coalition, which is developing strategies to address food waste in the E.U. and beyond.
- The nonprofit organization, ReFED (“Re-think Food Waste through Economics and Data”), which is advancing food waste prevention and surplus food recovery solutions by aligning and mobilizing cross-sector coalitions that include local, state and federal governments, nonprofit organizations, food companies, waste management companies, entrepreneurs and others.
- For more than two decades, we have supported the food waste and hunger fighting work of The Campus Kitchens Project, and more recently, the Food Recovery Network. Combined, these two nonprofits have engaged 125,000+ students at 230 colleges and universities in food waste reduction programs, last year alone recovering more than 1.9 million pounds of surplus food to nourish people in need.
At General Mills, our goal is to provide people with nutritious, convenient food that can help them live healthier lives. We are committed to making food with passion and putting people first by improving the variety and health profile of our products.
General Mills has a long history of improving the health and nutrition of our products. Since 2005, we’ve tracked this through our U.S. Health Metric. Over the past several years, we have expanded
our efforts, applying similar criteria to encourage health improvements globally. Here are some highlights of nutritional improvements worldwide since 2005 (fiscal 2005-2017 results).
We increased these beneficial nutrients:
- Whole grain – We introduced more than 280 products that provide at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving and reformulated more than 50 products to increase whole grain by at least 10 percent (key categories include cereal and snacks).
- Fiber – We introduced more than 290 products that provide a significant source of dietary fiber per serving and increased dietary fiber in another 30 products by at least 10 percent (key categories include cereal and snacks).
- Vitamins and minerals – We introduced more than 550 products that are sources of key vitamins and minerals, such as yogurt, cereal and snacks.
We reduced these nutrients of concern:
- Sodium – We reduced sodium by 5 to 25 percent in more than 450 products, including soups, dry dinners, canned tomatoes, Chex Mix and cereal.
- Sugar – We reduced sugar by 5 to 30 percent in more than 300 products, including yogurt, snacks and cereal.
Trans fat – We reduced trans-fat to 0 grams labeled per serving in 270 products, including baking mixes, refrigerated dough and pizza products.
Our marketing policies ensure that our child-directed advertising promotes only lower-calorie, nutrient dense products. We take particular care around the content and nature of advertising directed to children – including pre-screening of our ads by the Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit.
We actively engage in public policy discussions to advance these nutrition priorities, including the following actions:
- Supporting strong Dietary Guidelines for Americans (see our letter to USDA on the 2015 DGAs).
- Supporting the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s efforts to reflect the newest scientific information in the definition of “healthy” (see our letter to FDA).
- Supporting strong U.S. school nutrition standards, including requiring the same nutrition requirements for all foods sold in schools.
- Supporting the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and WIC consumer access to a variety of fortified ready-to-eat whole grain breakfast cereals and yogurt. We identify opportunities for our nutritionists and staff to work directly with scientific communities and USDA who are charged with developing recommendations for the “WIC Food Basket” to ensure our input is considered in their recommendations.
Safety is a priority for our company and central to our culture. Leading with safety – both in the workplace and the food we make – is one of the key operating principles that guides our work. We invested US$15.2 million in food safety in fiscal 2017; 8.5 percent of essential capital investment in 2017 was for projects related to food safety. Read more our food safety approach here.
We have a long history in food safety leadership. The Pillsbury Company, more than 50 years ago, developed the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) process with NASA for ensuring food safety. The HACCP approach identifies key stages in production where food safety risks can be minimized or eliminated. Today, HACCP has become the food industry’s gold standard and the backbone of many countries’ food safety regulations around the world.
Food safety leadership is a differentiator for General Mills, but not an area of competition. We freely share our best practices, emerging areas of concern and collaborate with industry peers and regulators to help raise standards industrywide.
We actively engage in public policy discussions to ensure safe food, including the following actions:
- We strongly support the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the largest revamp of U.S. food safety laws in decades, and its goal of raising up food safety standards across the food value chain. We supported the originating legislation for FSMA and the regulations for its implementation, and have consistently called on Congress to continue adequate funding for FSMA implementation.
General Mills works to ensure all members of a community have access to nutritious and sufficient food through strategic initiatives, grants, food donations and knowledge sharing.
- The General Mills Foundation has donated $2 billion to charitable causes since 1954.
- General Mills donated nearly $57 million in food to support U.S. and international food banks last fiscal year.
- In 2016, General Mills provided food donations, in addition to General Mills Foundation grants, to help the Global FoodBanking Network create and strengthen food banks around the world. The network served 6.8 million people in 2016.
- We are a founding partner with Feeding America – we were the leading partner in developing their logistics network. Today, our partnership includes not only food donations, promotional marketing, local volunteerism.
- In fiscal 2016, General Mills donated more than 41 million meals to Feeding America’s 200 food banks across the United States.
To learn more about our focus areas and our partners, please visit the Our Community Section of the Global Responsibility Report.
We also actively engage in public policy discussions to increase food security and strengthen communities, including the following actions:
- Increasing Food Security
- At the federal level, we are a longtime supporter of The Congressional Hunger Center, which works to make issues of domestic and international hunger a priority to policymakers in the U.S. government, and to raise a new generation of leaders to fight against hunger and poverty.
- General Mills is proud to have received the 2018 Corporate Partner Hunger Leadership Award from The Congressional Hunger Center, for centering food security, sustainable agriculture, and strengthening hometown communities in our philanthropic strategy.
- We work with several initiatives to advance public policy at the state level that would increase food security, including:
- Protecting people
- At General Mills, we put people first. We are leaders in diversity and inclusion, because we make food people love, regardless of their differences.
- We advocate for inclusive public policies and add our voice to help lead change.
- General Mills supports inclusive U.S. immigration policy. We are a member of the New American Economy, a coalition of diverse business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. And we stood up and called on Congress to immediately pass the bipartisan Dream Act or legislation that provides Dreamers raised in our country the permanent solution they deserve.
- General Mills supports inclusive LGBT public policy. We are a long-standing leader in the HRC Corporate Equality Index, which includes public policy engagement as a key measure. We are strong supporters of the Equality Act, and have publicly testified before the U.S. Congress – twice (view here and here) – for predecessor measures to show our support. We joined the business brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting marriage equality, and we were the largest company opposing an amendment to the constitution in our home state that would have blocked marriage equality.
- Strengthening our Communities
- In addition to our philanthropic support for our hometown communities, we also we develop important community partnerships that drive economic growth and increase connectiveness. For example, we played a catalyst role in our hometown in the formation of Greater MSP – the Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership.
We are committed to increasing transparency and helping you understand what's in your food. That's why we’re are putting more information in more places, including the following initiatives:
We also actively support public policy efforts to inform our consumers and increase their awareness about our products. For example, we are active members of several organizations that provided comments to the USDA requesting that more information about bioengineered ingredients be made available to consumers, not less (one example here). We strongly support this.