Thank You, General Mills


Photo Credit: Grist Article

I came across this article on about General Mills’s new action plan to reduce their contribution to climate change. After being called out by Oxfam International,  Oxfam says that General Mills will be, “the first major food and beverage company to promise to implement long-term science-based targets to cut emissions.”

With both a mitigation and adaptation plan, I am pretty impressed by this corporations efforts to take responsibility of their role. On the official page of their website describing this policy, they cite the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers, which suggests to me that they have people on their team helping them make really informed decisions grounded in scientific evidence. I appreciate in the report the full acknowledgement of the IPCC’s call to action:

“Science based evidence suggests we must limit the global mean temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels in order to avoid permanently altering the atmosphere and negatively impacting the environmental, social and economic systems that sustain us – both today and in the future.”

I haven’t seen a big corporation like this that would normally be considered a “dirty business” so blatantly speak to the environmental reality we face. To see a corporation cite this gives me hope that mainstream conversations around climate change are moving towards what we can do and away from whether or not its real. I hope more corporations follow their lead just for the sake of drumming the beat of awareness.

The true colors of this policy will show in how effectively it is implemented, because that will determine whether it is a fluffy ‘greenwashing’ tactic with loopholes built in.

Here are a few of the main points of the policy:

  • Set global targets and track progress related to reductions in GHG emissions, energy, water, transportation, packaging and solid waste.
  • Support the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy commitment to reduce fluid milk GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2020.  Work with smallholder and conventional farmers to strengthen globally sustainable farming practices.
  • Address GHG emissions due to land use change through sustainable sourcing efforts in key supply chains and growing regions.  Our aim is to achieve zero net deforestation in high-risk supply chains by 2020. We will regularly report progress towards the zero net deforestation goal.
  • Ensure responsible governance and oversight of all sustainability efforts, including climate mitigation and adaptation.  Convene the General Mills Sustainability Governance Committee 3 times per year to review and approve strategies, programs and key investments.
  • Report progress against goals – our own as well as those in our broader supply chain – on an annual basis via our Global Responsibility Report, available on the General Mills website

For a more extensive look at the report, click here.

While I raise my eyebrows at some of the vague wording in their initiatives, like “support”, “work with”, and “ensure” that are less concrete objectives, I also see timelines and checkpoints to keep themselves more accountable to this than they had to. I have learned to appreciate initiatives that move in the direction of the ideal, rather than criticizing anything that doesn’t model the most perfect action. While it is good to remain skeptical, I think it is important to acknowledge leadership in the right direction when we see it.