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General Mills unveils sustainable sourcing commitments for 10 core raw materials

By Elaine WATSON , 26-Sep-2013

100% of General Mills' palm oil will be sourced from "responsible and sustainable sources" in 2015, says the firm
100% of General Mills' palm oil will be sourced from "responsible and sustainable sources" in 2015, says the firm

UPDATED - General Mills has unveiled a commitment to sustainably source 10 key ingredients, representing 50% of its raw material purchases, by 2020. 

Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills, said: "We know where we can have the greatest impact from an environmental standpoint. We believe that through sustainable sourcing, we can create the most long-term economic, environmental and social value."

WWF: They are getting directly involved with these issues and really rolling up their sleeves

Since 2010, General Mills and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have been working together to integrate sustainability into the company's supply chain, conducting a supply risk analysis of its agricultural sourcing and water risk assessment, WWF vice president of agriculture Dave McLaughlin told FoodNavigator-USA.

"Compared to some other companies, General Mills is very action-oriented, especially on water. They are getting directly involved with these issues and really rolling up their sleeves."

While General Mills was one of the snack food giants criticized in a recent report into palm oil sourcing by Rainforest Action Network, it is actually ahead of the game in this respect and already sources 50% of its supplies using the mass balance system (which combines RSPO certified and regular palm oil), and "backfilling" using GreenPalm certificates, he said.

"And it is shooting for a fully physical supply chain [so it can physically trace back all of the oil used in its products to certified sustainable sources]."

Specific commitments by ingredient area are as follows:

1 - OATS: 100% will be sourced from growing regions that demonstrate continuous improvement against industry-based environmental metrics.

2 - WHEAT: 100% of Gen Mills' U.S. wheat will be sourced from growing regions that demonstrate continuous improvement against the Field-to-Market framework or comparable environmental metrics.

3 - CORN: 100% of Gen Mills' dry milled corn will be sourced from growing regions that demonstrate continuous improvement against the Field-to-Market framework or comparable environmental metrics.

4 - DAIRY: 100% of its directly sourced fluid milk will originate from producing regions that demonstrate continuous improvement as measured by the Dairy Sustainability Framework (U.S.) or other comparable environmental metrics (globally).

5 - FIBER PACKAGING: 100% of its fiber packaging will be from recycled material or from virgin wood fiber regions that are known to not be contributing to deforestation. Any high-risk regions will be independently verified.

6 - COCOA: 100% of Gen Mills' cocoa will be sourced through origin-direct investment, which will improve the incomes of smallholder farmers and the quality of ingredients.

7 - VANILLA: 100% of its vanilla will be sourced through origin direct investment, which will improve the incomes of smallholder farmers and the quality of ingredients.

8 - PALM OIL: 100% of Gen Mills' palm oil will be sourced from responsible and sustainable sources in 2015.

9 - SUGAR CANE: 100% of Genl Mills' sugar cane will be sourced from responsible and sustainable sources.

10 - SUGAR BEET: 100% of Gen Mills' U.S. beet sugar will be sourced from growing regions that demonstrate continuous improvement against the Field-To-Market framework or comparable environmental metrics.

Sustainable sourcing

General Mills says that by 2020, all of its U.S. wheat will be sourced from growing regions that demonstrate continuous improvement against the Field-to-Market framework or comparable environmental metrics.

Leading food companies are improving their sustainability policies but still have a long way to go, according to Oxfam's ‘Behind the Brands’ sustainability report, which gives General Mills a 24% rating (click here ) just ahead of rival Kellogg at 23%.

According to Oxfam, Minneapolis-based General Mills is "strongest on water but has a long way to go in respecting land and women’s rights in its supply chain. It also lags behind on policies covering transparency, climate change and its dealings with farmers".

Oxfam, which assessed the sustainability initiatives of some of the world’s biggest food and drink companies - including Nestlé, Unilever, Danone, Mondelez, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo - looked at treatment of workers, women, farmers, land and water, as well as climate and overall transparency.

Click here to read more about Oxfam's scorecard (shown below), which is regularly updated.

The Oxfam scorecard rates companies based on its performance in seven areas: Transparency at a corporate level; Women farm workers and small-scale producers in the supply chain; Workers on farms in the supply chain; Farmers (small-scale) growing the commodities; Land, both rights and access to land and sustainable use of it; Water, both rights and access to water resources and sustainable use of it; and Climate, both relating to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping farmers adapt to climate change.

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