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 Agriculture and Soil Health
- General Mills is leading the charge on regenerative agriculture, with industry-leading investments to help support our farmers as they shift agriculture in North America towards more sustainable practices. Read more our work here.
- During 2018 Farmer Bill negotiations, we supported the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP). This new programs within USDA's Conservation Reserve Program will pay farmers to plant cover crops on their land for three to five years.
- We are strong supporters of the Foundation for Food and Ag Research (FFAR), a critical facilitator of public private partnerships between industry and farmers.
- We helped establish the Ecosystem Service Market Consortium (ESMC), which quantifies the benefits of sustainable agricultural practices so farmers can be paid for providing them.
- We are constantly evaluating new federal, state and local policy opportunities to advance regenerative farming practices.
- 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 responded to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis with our comments on the potential of agriculture to mitigate climate change, highlighting policies that help us support farmers through public private partnerships.
- 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:
- Michigan Business Support Action on Climate - March 2020
- RCPP Farm Bill Support Letter – April 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
- Low Carbon USA Paris Agreement Letter to President Trump – February 2016
- Minnesota Support Letter for joining Governor's Accord – March 2016
- Michigan Support Letters for Renewable Energy – May 2015, October 2015, April 2016, November 2016
- Michigan Support Letter for Implementation of Carbon Pollution Standards – July 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.
- General Mills and members of the Organic Trade Association Dairy Council signed a letter to support the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to finalize a 2015 rule, providing the organic dairy industry with consistent, clear regulation on the transition of conventional livestock to organic production and protecting the integrity of organic dairy production.
- 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 2019, AMERIPEN was active in addressing state policy including California, New York and Maine.
- As a leading member of the Consumer Brands Association, we support their convening of the Recycling Leadership Council which will build a public policy framework to fundamentally reimagine the U.S. recycling system.
- 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 efforts to fight food waste and hunger on college and university campuses via The Campus Kitchens Project, Food Recovery Network (recently combined), which have engaged 125,000+ students at 230 colleges and universities in food waste reduction programs, last year alone recovering more than 3.2 million pounds of surplus food to nourish people in need.
Our goal is to provide a diverse portfolio of products that contribute to the well-being of consumers and meet a variety of needs. We are committed to making food with passion and putting people first by improving the variety and nutrient density of our products.
Annually, we share results on the variety and nutritional characteristics of our product portfolio. This is reported as the % of global volume that meets our internal criteria for “Nutrition-Forward.” We are proud to report that in fiscal 2019, 45% of General Mills global volume met our criteria as “Nutrition-Forward Foods.” Learn more about our global health reporting.
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 recommendations fro consideration to the Dietary Guidelines for American Advisory Committee as they develop the report and final recommendations for the 2020-2025 DGAs in July 2019 here & here and in January 202 here).
- 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.
- Sharing the nutritional benefits and affordability of ready-to-eat cereal at the General Mills and Kellogg’s Congressional Breakfast and Briefing in Washington, D.C. in honor of National Cereal Day 2020.
Learn more about our Nutrition and Food Safety Partnerships and Collaborations
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 submitted our statement in support of the Act in 2019. General Mills executives publicly testified before the U.S. Congress – in 2007 and 2012 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.