Here at FoodFacts.com we understand that sometimes it takes a little convincing to help major food manufacturers clean up their act. But regardless of what motivates a mainstream industry player to commit to product and process improvement, we’re still in favor of giving credit where it’s due. So today we want to acknowledge General Mills for just such an effort.
We should first discuss the “Behind the Brands” campaign from Oxfam America. Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice and their “Behind the Brands” campaign tried to encourage manufacturers to commit to climate change strategies.
Food giant General Mills has announced industry-leading initiatives on climate change.
Oxfam gathered over 230,000 signatures on petitions for General Mills alone as part of their campaign. Along with Kellogg, the two companies are at the bottom of the big 10 food corporations on addressing the problem.
As a result, Cheerios, Betty Crocker, Haagen-Dazs, Green Giant and other well-known General Mills brands publicly will advocate for action and clean up their operations and supply chains.
The company said it will sustainably source 100 percent of its 10 priority ingredients by 2020 — half its raw material purchases. And it’s committing to long-term science-based targets — those that keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C. These targets include a clear commitment to address its supply chain, which generates 92 percent of its emissions from agricultural ingredients and packaging.
Palm oil and pulp and paper industries are the leading cause of deforestation, accounting for almost 85 percent of Indonesia’s carbon emissions — the third highest in the world. 2.5 million acres a year are clear cut, releasing more carbon than all the cars, trucks, planes and ships in the United States combined.
Supply chain targets also will include direct emissions (such as dairy farms), water use, waste, packaging and transportation.
To advocate for strong policy, General Mills signed the Climate Declaration and joined Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), which is working to pass meaningful climate and energy legislation.
“This would not have happened without the remarkable outpouring of public action from individuals who are fed up with the lack of effort to address climate change from too many food companies and governments,” said Monique van Zijl, who manages Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign.
General Mills said it lost 62 days of production in the first quarter alone from extreme weather. “Too many of today’s food and beverage giants are crossing their fingers and hoping that climate change won’t disrupt the food system, imagining somebody else will fix it. The ‘Big 10′ companies generate over $1 billion a day and have great power to influence global food chains,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam.
General Mills said it will:
1. Set and disclose emission-reduction targets for its total supply chain by August 2015, with a focus on agriculture.
2. Aim for net-zero deforestation in high-risk supply chains — palm oil, packaging fiber, beef, soy, sugar cane — by 2020.
3. Disclose top three suppliers of palm oil and sugar cane.
4. Participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project, including annual reports on supply chain emissions data and forest health.
5. Publicly advocate for effective public and industry policy, such as encouraging peers to join the Consumer Goods Forum’s net-zero deforestation commitment.
6. Join BICEP and sign the Climate Declaration.
7. Regularly review company statements and policies to ensure alignment with mitigation targets and initiatives.
Kellogg is next on Oxfam’s list, so far refusing to take serious action. “We applaud General Mills for taking this vital first step,” said van Zijl. “We look forward to tracking the actions the company takes to follow through on their promises. The ball is now in Kellogg’s court to respond to the hundreds of thousands of people calling for climate action.”
FoodFacts.com wants to add our own applause for General Mills. We would like to remind them, however, that this is just one step towards improving their brand. There’s plenty more that the company can do to make its products more appealing to conscious consumers. General Mills might want to think about tackling its ingredient difficulties next. Just a thought, General Mills. Betty Crocker might be a good place to start.