USA— American packaged food company, General Mills is stepping up its efforts around regenerative agriculture to reach its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, the company’s top sustainability officer said.
“We’re investing beyond our supply chain and working in key areas where we source our ingredients to drive meaningful impact,” said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer for General Mills.
General Mills has committed to reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Of the company’s total greenhouse gas emissions, more than 90% are not related to activities at assets owned by the company. The majority of these are upstream in agriculture, Melendez said.
“As a result, we are accelerating the adoption of regenerative agriculture, which we expect will be the largest contributor to our greenhouse gas reduction goals,” she added.
The company has committed to advancing regenerative agriculture on 1 million acres by 2030, Melendez said. To date, the company is 20% of the way toward this goal.
To speed up farmer adoption the company is funding multi-day soil health academies and workshops and are connecting farmers with their local peers.
They are also supporting farmer-led organizations to accelerate knowledge sharing and create a network of support.
The company is investing in research into more efficient ways of measuring the effects of regenerative agriculture, such as satellite imagery.
Jonathon J. Nudi, group president, North America Retail cited a direct partnership with Montana growers to cultivate crops for pasta ingredients.
“The crops for the pasta ingredients are grown with regenerative organic practices such as extended crop rotations and integrated crop and livestock management,” Nudi said.
He also discussed work General Mills is doing around regenerative production of almonds. He noted the extreme water stress in California, which produces 80% of the global almond supply.
Research the company has conducted preliminarily indicates regenerative agriculture may help address the water issues.
The research showing increased farmer profits and up to 6 times better water infiltration rates than the conventional approaches.
“Sustainability efforts also are actively underway at General Mills facilities,” said Paul J. Gallagher, chief supply chain officer. He focused on efforts to completely eliminate waste sent to landfills.
The company has set a 2025 target for achieving Zero Waste to Landfill status at all of the company’ manufacturing facilities.
To date, a third of its global facilities have reached this status, he said. One being its Los Angeles flour mill.
“They created a centrally located recycling center that makes it easier for employees to segregate waste streams and allows for trash and cardboard to be compacted,” he said.
“We expect that embedding sustainability and purpose into our brands will drive stronger organic sales growth,” said Kofi Bruce, chief financial officer
Bruce cited data from IBM and the National Retail Federation indicating sustainability is important to 80% of consumers
Among this group, more than 70% would pay a premium of 35% on average for brands that are sustainable and environmentally responsible.
Additionally, he said many efforts associated with sustainability generate cost savings.
For instance, wind farms will generate $10 million of cost savings for the company between fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2022.
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