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Addressing Climate Change Across the Value Chain

Submitted by: Ken Powell

Posted: Sep 01, 2015 – 06:00 AM EST

Series: Addressing Climate Change from Farm to Fork

Tags: food, climate change, value chain, general mills

 
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We serve the world by making food people love. To produce that food, we rely on Mother Nature to supply the ingredients we need. Therefore, we understand the impact changes in the health of our planet can have on agriculture and our business. 

Climate change is one of the most pressing environmental issues that our society faces today. There are numerous risks that climate change presents to our livelihoods, our business and our shared planet if left unaddressed.

With our planet’s population growth expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, we see the challenges with providing food for more people in a resource constrained world.  

General Mills wants to be part of the solution. We know this issue is top of mind for our consumers, customers and our employees, and we believe addressing climate change is not only imperative to the long-term viability of our company, but to each of us as individuals as well.  

As part of our efforts to conserve and protect natural resources, we recently announced a commitment to reduce absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 28 percent across our full value chain – from farm to fork to landfill – over the next 10 years (versus our 2010 baseline).  

Working closely with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), we calculated this commitment using science-based methodologies to ensure we achieve the level of emission reductions that science suggests is necessary to sustain the health of our planet.

Looking beyond 2025, our long term aspiration is to achieve sustainable emission levels by 2050, which by today’s scientific consensus would require a reduction of 50-70% absolute emissions. 

General Mills has long been committed to reducing our environmental footprint, particularly within our direct operations, where we have the greatest control. 

We set specific GHG reduction targets for our facilities and to date, have reduced our absolute emissions by 13 percent within our four walls. To achieve these reductions, we invested in energy efficiency and clean energy innovation at our manufacturing facilities. Examples of this work include:

  •  Since 2009, we have reduced the amount of fuel/per ton used to ship our products by 22 percent. 
  •  At our manufacturing plant in Murfreesboro, we’re turning waste from Greek yogurt into biofuel. This renewable energy will reduce the plant’s carbon footprint by 14 percent.
  •  At our oat mill in Fridley where we produce oat flour for Cheerios, we generate green energy by burning oat hulls. This practice reduces the mill’s carbon footprint by 21 percent.
  •  And in Guangzhou, China, we shifted from oil to natural gas in our plant, which reduced emissions by over 25 percent.

However, given that nearly two-thirds of our total GHG emissions throughout the value chain occur upstream of our direct operations, primarily in agriculture, we’ve also been focused on advancing sustainable agriculture.  

In 2013, we made a commitment to sustainably source 100 percent of our 10 priority ingredients by 2020. These ingredients represent 50 percent of our total raw material purchases and have a significant impact on our total environmental footprint. As part of this commitment, we are working with suppliers and farmers strengthen sustainable farming practices. This work addresses key growing dimensions including GHG emission reduction, water management, and soil quality in an effort to establish more climate resilient farms.

Because the majority of our GHG emissions occur outside our own walls, we recognize the importance of working across our value chain with growers, suppliers, customers and industry partners. Together, we will drive emission reductions.

Our approach to reduce absolute emissions by 28 percent over the next 10 years will not revolutionize our business. Rather, it will be an extension of efforts to reduce our environmental footprint through continuous improvement and sustainable sourcing. In addition, this work will require unprecedented collaboration with strategic partners who share our sustainability mission, such as Field to Market, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and others.

We have also outlined a series of specific actions that we believe will help us reduce absolute emissions over the next 10 years, including:

  •  Continue to lead the way in our own, direct operations by investing more than $100MM in energy efficiency and clean energy. This level of investment is in-line with the work we’ve been doing within our operations to reduce our environmental footprint since 2005. 
  •  Partner with our suppliers to accelerate adoption of more sustainable agriculture practices that build climate-resilient, healthy soils. This includes sourcing from an additional 250,000 organic acres globally by 2025.   
  •  Help consumers reduce their carbon footprint through products and packaging with smaller footprints: introducing 250 new organic products by 2025 and making sustainability product and packaging improvements to more than 3,000 other products. 
  •  Support climate resiliency of farmers in our supply chain. 

We believe that climate change is a shared, global challenge that is best addressed at scale. Every company, government and individual has a part to play in protecting our planet for future generations.

Our GHG emissions goal is an ambitious one, but it’s one that we believe is achievable. Accomplishing this goal is predicated on the notion that we will have equally ambitious partners to help us get us there. 

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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