Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Food giant raises it sights

December 2010

One of the world’s largest food companies has announced ‘more aggressive’ sustainability goals up to 2015, despite having failed to achieve some of its recent targets.

General Mills, which operates in more than 100 countries with brands such as Cheerios, Haagen-Dazs, Old El Paso and Pillsbury, has set four new key goals for 2015 – reducing water usage by 20 per cent, solid waste generation by half, energy usage by 20 per cent, and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent.

The four targets will be measured across the company’s global manufacturing operations using rates per tonne of product. Water usage will be measured against a 2006 baseline, while the solid waste, energy and greenhouse gas goals will be related to 2005 figures.

Jerry Lynch, General Mills’ chief sustainability officer, said the aim was to set ‘more aggressive goals for even greater progress in the next five years’.

Although the company has reduced water usage by nine per cent since 2006 and solid waste generation by 33 per cent – in each case exceeding the goals it set itself on 2005 baselines – it has fallen well short of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions targets, achieving roughly only half of the gains it had wanted on 2005 levels.

However, Lynch said ‘better systems across the company’ allied to technology improvements had brought significant progress on sustainability during the past two years and had convinced him that more challenging targets could be reached despite the mixed results of recent years.

‘All of the six per cent reduction we have achieved in energy consumption came in just the last two years, for instance, so we are gaining momentum, which encourages us to set more aggressive goals,’ he said.

The company, which had global net sales of $16billion (£10bn, €12bn) in the fiscal year 2010, has also established a US goal of reducing the amount of fuel used to ship its products by 2015, using fiscal 2009 as a baseline. It says achieving that goal will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated by shipping the company’s products by 35 per cent by 2015.

Last month another food sector company, PepsiCo, also came up with new targets to reduce its carbon emissions and water consumption in the UK – by 50 per cent during the next five years.

The pledge, applying to PepsiCo’s farming operations, will rely heavily on innovations in the company’s operations in the crisp sector, where it owns Walkers.

The company, which buys more than 350,000 tonnes of potatoes a year, says it will replace the three varieties it grows in Britain with ‘precision crops’ needing half as much water. Its 350 farms, which produce oats for PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats brands and apples for its Copella apple juice in addition to potatoes, will also switch to low-carbon fertilization and farming machinery.

David Wilkinson, PepsiCo’s European agriculture director, said: ‘These are ambitious but achievable targets. Britain is a test bed. If it goes well we will be able to use these methods worldwide.’

PepsiCo’s rival, Coca-Cola, recently unveiled a new target to cut carbon emissions 15 per cent by 2020 across all its operations.

General Mills | Global | Sustainability

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