MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Today, General Mills released its annual Global Responsibility Report, which outlines the company’s approach to creating economic, environmental and social value in the countries where it operates. General Mills reports progress on the most material topics related to its business – health and wellness, environment, sourcing, workplace and community engagement.
This is the 45th year General Mills has shared an annual responsibility report with stakeholders and the community. The report offers robust discussion about General Mills’ social and environmental commitments, programs, products, performance and challenges. To promote comparability, General Mills aligned its 2015 report with the Global Reporting Initiative G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines for the first time.
“As a global food company, we are committed to providing nutritious and great-tasting foods that meet consumer needs while simultaneously upholding sound environmental and social practices,” said Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills. “The combination of these practices is just one way in which we fulfill our company’s mission of Nourishing Lives.”
General Mills marked several milestones over the last year in its pursuit to be one of the most socially responsible food companies in the world. Highlights include: expanding its natural and organic product portfolio; taking steps to address climate change and water conservation; continuing progress toward the company’s sustainable sourcing commitment; innovating to empower communities across the globe and much more.
Expanding the General Mills natural and organic product portfolio
Consumers around the world seek nutritious, convenient and affordable food for themselves and their families every day. Organic and limited-ingredient products in particular continue to be top of mind for many consumers around the world. General Mills is responding by innovating and expanding its portfolio of natural and organic items.
With the addition of Annie’s in late 2014, General Mills is now the fourth-largest U.S. natural and organic food producer and is the second largest buyer of organic fruits and vegetables in the North American packaged foods sector.
General Mills’ natural and organic brands bring more than wellness and great taste to the company’s portfolio. These established and respected brands – including Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, LÄRABAR, and more – also provide best practices that help to inform General Mills’ global sustainability efforts.
“As more consumers seek opportunities to live sustainably, our natural and organic brands not only help them make sustainable choices, but the businesses themselves bring valuable insight to the our broader sustainability strategies,” said Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills.
Addressing climate change and water conservation
For decades, General Mills has worked with stakeholders, smallholder farmers in developing countries and large-scale growers in developed economies to address challenges and pursue unique opportunities to reduce their environmental footprint and promote sustainable agriculture practices.
To reinforce these efforts, General Mills announced global corporate policies on water conservation and climate change in 2014. The company’s climate change policy establishes a framework for its efforts to track and reduce GHG emissions across its broader value chain as well as to work with suppliers to improve environmental, social and economic footprints within the supply chain
Similarly, the corporate water policy provides a framework that guides General Mills’ engagement with stakeholders to improve the health of watersheds, particularly those in high risk regions where the company operates. The water policy also underscores the industry-leading work of General Mills and its key partner, The Nature Conservancy, in eight of the company’s most material and most at-risk watersheds around the world.
Advancing sustainable sourcing efforts
General Mills made significant progress toward its commitment to sustainably source 100 percent of its 10 priority ingredients by 2020. These 10 ingredients represent more than 50 percent of the company’s annual raw material purchases and cover a broad range of raw materials including oats, wheat, corn, dairy, fiber packaging, cocoa, vanilla, palm oil, sugar cane and sugar beets.
The company’s approach is tailored for each ingredient and geography. To date, 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. Though only 20 percent of General Mills’ raw materials are sourced in the developing world, 40 percent of the company’s 10 priority ingredients originate in the developing world. General Mills is furthest along towards the goal of sustainably sourcing 100 percent of two raw materials: palm oil (83 percent) and fiber packaging (99 percent).
Innovating to empower communities
Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), a nonprofit organization founded by General Mills that works to improve the capacity, efficiency and product quality of food companies in sub-Saharan Africa, launched groundbreaking innovation this year in nutrition and food security in Ethiopia. For the first time ever, local producers will begin fortifying wheat flour with the vitamins and minerals children need to develop and adults need to thrive.
This capability was made possible by linking volunteer employees from General Mills, Cargill, DSM and Bühler with high-potential food processors in one of Ethiopia’s largest flour mills to develop the technology and processes needed to fortify flour effectively and safely. Volunteer experts shared business and technical expertise with their Ethiopian counterparts through email, Skype, a proprietary web platform and occasional visits.
The availability of nutritious fortified wheat, a dietary staple in Ethiopia, is one step toward PFS’ mission to expand access to help raise living standards, address chronic food supply issues and respond to extreme hunger in the developing world.
“The sustainability of our planet and local communities are business imperatives for General Mills,” said Lynch. “While we’ve made great progress inside our operations and across our supply chain we recognize that there is still much to be done and we are committed to doing it.”
Contact: Shannon Heine
About General Mills
General Mills is one of the world’s leading food companies, operating in more than 100 countries around the world. Its brands include Cheerios, Fiber One, Häagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., USA, General Mills had fiscal 2014 worldwide sales of US $17.9 billion.